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Cosatu wants universities to give priority to Southern African rather than international students. The federation believes the high number of international students blocks access for local students.
This was discussed at a meeting of the federation’s executive committee last week. It called for acceptable ratios between local and international students.
“We are also urging that the equity targets of the university campuses be redebated so that we can ensure that spaces for deserving African students are not filled by foreign white students,” the federation said.
According to the Department of Higher Education and Training the number of international students at SA’s public universities has grown from 12 600 in 1994 to more than 64 784 in 2010 – a 500 percent increase. Higher education statistics for 2010 also showed around 38 percent of international students were enrolled through Unisa. The University of Cape Town had the most foreigners at a contact institution, followed by the universities of Pretoria and the North-West.
Cosatu also wants the government to stop subsidising private universities. “…Private post-school institutions should not be getting public funding since they will be out of reach of the ordinary student of the working class,” read the report.
Cosatu also wants the government to “lock” students studying scarce skills (such as medicine and engineering) into contracts to work for the country and the rural areas after graduation to “halt the current tide of the skills flight”.
The federation has also criticised the green paper on post-school education and training released earlier this year for being silent on free quality education. “(SA) is heavily bedevilled by unemployment, poverty and inequality. We cannot be talking about time frames for the implementation of this scheme,” read the report.
In his budget speech in April Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the government had already introduced free education in Further Education Training institutions, and it was committed to extending it to poor students up to undergraduate level.
A group appointed by Nzimande to look at the viability of free education at universities is expected to hand in a report at the end of this month.
Higher Education Department spokeswoman Vuyelwa Qinga said:
“Under the SADC Protocol, the SA government has agreed 5 percent of enrolments should be for SADC students, and universities implement this… Statistics show 94 percent of undergraduate enrolments at our universities are South Africans, 5 percent from SADC countries and 1 percent from other African countries. All students from overseas are occasional students… or are on post-graduate programmes,” Qinga said.