Fees Must Fall
SCHOOL READINESS FOR 2016
The cost of tertiary education has been at the forefront of the national debate and the parliamentary agenda following unprecedented protests across the country, which led to the closure of university campuses, the storming of the parliamentary precinct by demonstrators and the eventual decision by the President to freeze fee hikes for higher education next year.
The Minster of Higher Education and Training informed MPs that the protest were fueled by a number of burning issues, the immediate one being the proposed 2016 increments in student fees. However two specific and more systematic issues underpin this:
- under-funding of the university system in general,
- the demand for free higher education.
The Minster said that free education for the poor was a goal that should be fast-tracked and that the cost of the 0% fee increase would be shared between government and the universities, each according to their means
As a medium term solution, his department will explore the possibility of developing regulatory frameworks in the area of fee increments and interrogate the balance between the institutional autonomy of universities and the need for public accountability.
The National Development Plan set a target of 500 000 university graduates every year for the next 15 years. The objective will not be achieved if additional funding is not channeled into the system.
The Committee expressed concern about where the money to fund the 0% fee increase would come, and the fact that the sector as a whole seemed to be underfunded. They noted the low level of university funding as a percentage of gross domestic product in South Africa, which was below global and continental average.
Some MPs voiced concern about the financial health of the universities, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) disbursement mechanism and the failure of students to repay loans.
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