Sunway University is conducting all education through online distance learning (ODL) for the April – July semester 2020 in view of the national Movement Control Orders. This is so that all students can continue with their diploma and degree programmes without delay or interruption and can graduate on time. Many leading universities around the world are doing the same. The University is well aware that some students have been asking why fees for university study by ODL have not been significantly reduced compared to normal on-campus teaching and learning.
Sunway University is a not-for-profit institution owned by a charitable foundation that uses all of its income solely to support its academic mission, including providing scholarships for deserving students. We do not make any profits from the fees that students pay and we do not give any money to shareholders, unlike most other private universities in the country. This is important and puts us in the same category as many top international universities which exist solely to benefit society. Our aim is to continue to offer a high-quality education and to ensure that we can continue to do that long-term without any financial risk to the institution and hence to our students’ education. That is why our approach to fees reduction is to do so in a way that reflects the actual costs of teaching the academic programmes.
The University has decided to reduce the resource fees for the semester to a flat rate of RM1000 for most students (with the exception of some short programmes whose resource fees are below that level which will be reduced proportionately). The normal resource fees for on-campus teaching depend on the nature of the programme, with those requiring special facilities and consumables such as science laboratories having the highest resource fees. In view of the fact that all teaching will be online and every student will have essentially the same experience through ODL, it is appropriate that the resource fees for online learning should be the same for all.
The reduction of the resource fees to a flat rate for the April-July semester reflects that the University is able to make some modest savings on such items as utility bills and laboratory consumables. However, we have to continue to charge some resource fees because we have to provide and maintain the necessary IT infrastructure including computer servers, software packages and licenses, network storage etc. to support online learning. Some of these resources have had to be increased to cope with the demands of fully online education for the entire university, which is a highly abnormal situation. We also have the costs of the online library which involves paying expensive on-going subscriptions for hundreds of thousands of e-books and online journals to international publishers. We also have the costs of the IT technical support staff and many other staff supporting and administering the online learning.
The largest part of the University’s normal expenditure is for academic staff, which is what the tuition fees mainly cover. Our lecturers and professors are working exceptionally hard preparing and delivering the education through ODL. Our staff are all fully employed and very busy at this time, which is why we are not able to reduce the tuition fees during the ODL period. There are many other costs that go into academic delivery including fees that the University has to pay to accrediting and validating bodies. These are the major costs that have to be borne by the University in whatever mode we are delivering our programmes, whether on-campus or online.
Professor Graeme Wilkinson
14 April 2020