Legal Basis and Policy Issues

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Tutorial.png Unit 11 

Introduction | Legal Basis and Policy Issues | Determining Fee Levels | Deciding on a Fee Structure | Can Students Afford It? | Influence of Price on Demand | Providing for the Neediest Students

Legal Basis and Policy Issues

Before a State-sponsored ODL institution levies fees or other charges on the users of the services it provides, the following must be established:

What legal provisions empower the ODL institution to collect fees?
Where an open school, college or university has been established by an act of parliament, it is usual to include specific clauses in these statutory instruments empowering the institution to make such charges. In other cases, authorisation to collect fees may be granted in terms of regulations issued under another act (e.g. national education acts, state finance acts). In countries whose constitutions make reference to the provision of free education for young people up to a certain age, care must be taken to ensure that the fees charged by State-supported ODL institutions do not conflict with such constitutional provisions.

What legal mechanisms are in place to regulate fee levels?
Even when no specific statutory reference is made to fees, it is normal for legal mechanisms to be put in place to regulate the amount of such charges and to ensure that they are not excessive. In some cases, a change in the level of fees requires approval by the minister of education; in others, it may need to be sanctioned by the permanent secretary, an advisory body or a separate authority (for example, a higher education authority).

What consultations or consents are required in order to raise fee levels?
Raising the level of fees can be politically sensitive, evoking strong responses from students and their families. Because of this, it is advisable to consult widely among all stakeholders in order to assess the likely reaction to fee increases and to explain why they are necessary.

Policy Considerations

Clear policies are instrumental in assisting any deliberations on what is considered to be an ‘appropriate’ level of fees and on what mechanisms should be adopted to structure and collect them. The following principles are suggested as a starting point for devising a policy framework for ODL institutions:

  1. Fees should be based on clearly-defined principles that are accepted as fair by learners and other stakeholders.
  2. Fee levels should reflect the cost of providing the service.
  3. Fees should be set at a level that ensures the long-term sustainability of the ODL institution.
  4. Provision should be made to ensure that the most disadvantaged learners are able to access the service.
  5. Any mechanism adopted for structuring and collecting fees should be efficient to administer.

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Exercise 11.1
The purpose of this exercise is to review the existing legal and policy framework in respect of fees for State-funded ODL institutions. It is designed to be carried out as a group activity by the following:

  • senior managerial and professional staff of ODL institutions,
  • members of governing bodies or advisory committees for ODL institutions, and/or
  • political office holders and senior officials in ministries of education.

Prior to getting together, one participant should be assigned the task of collecting the relevant legal and policy documents, and of making photocopies of the relevant sections.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What legal provisions (if any) are in place in the jurisdiction to authorise or regulate the level of fees? Are further legal instruments required?
  2. What market research or consultations have taken place about existing fee levels or proposals to increase fees? What are different stakeholders likely to say if they are asked about these issues?
  3. How have fee levels been determined in the past?
  4. Is there a written or unwritten policy currently in force that guides decision-making on this issue?
  5. In relation to each of the policy principles suggested above, how practical or ‘appropriate’ would each be in relation to State-funded ODL institutions in your country?
  6. What other principles can you suggest for inclusion in a national or institutional policy on fees?