New Guinea students catch up

February 25, 2000

Students at the University of Papua New Guinea have returned to special classes designed to help them catch up with work missed when student boycotts and violence forced the university to abandon the final semester of 1999.

The special remedial term runs until March 10, when the new academic year starts.

The boycotts were triggered by a 25 per cent rise in university fees, needed to cover a massive shortfall in government funding.

Classes were first suspended in March after students protested against planned cutbacks and a reorganisation of departments proposed by Rodney Hills, the then vice-chancellor, who has since resigned.

After months of boycotts, the university administration abandoned classes and shut the university. Fighting broke out between student groups during the year and a number of university vehicles were burned.

Classes were abandoned only four weeks before the end of the third term and final-year students were unable to graduate.

Thomas Wagner, UPNG's pro vice-chancellor, said the university would take disciplinary action against students who led the boycott. Thirty-two students face penalties ranging from fines to expulsion from the university, though all the students are enrolled for the remedial term.

Dr Wagner warned that if things became difficult again this year the university would have to be more authoritarian.

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