Malawi's university students face a 3,000 per cent rise in tuition fees from June next year.
While they are certain to contest the move, the government is unlikely to yield, although it may reconsider the timing of the increase - from 1,500 kwacha (about £15) a year for tuition to 46,000 kwacha for tuition and maintenance.
When finance minister Matthews Chikaonda announced that the rise would take effect in June, he was unable to explain how the new figure had been calculated.
Introduction of a full fees and maintenance system in four years' time is thought to be one of the recommendations made in October to the university council after a fact-finding mission led by David Rubadiri, vice-chancellor of Chancellor College in Zomba.
The mission visited six universities in the region including Makerere in Uganda, where a loans and scholarship system have been put in place.
Most students fund themselves by taking out loans. At least half the loan is written off if the graduate works for five or more years in the public sector or in a field considered crucial to the country's development. Terms for teachers are even more generous.
Malawi's fees row has been made worse by revelations of the embezzlement of government money.
There is a growing demand for tertiary education. Most of the 4,000 pupils leaving secondary school each year apply, but the University of Malawi accepts only 1,000, about 0.05 per of the population.
However, central government often fails to meet its funding commitments. Students are badly affected by these financial constraints as lecturers spend more time supplementing their meagre incomes than teaching.