Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba making his 2018 budget speech in Parliament. Picture :Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - Government has allocated R57 billion into higher education for the next three years to foot the bill for the funding of free free higher education

Finance minister Malusi Gigaba tabled the budget in parliament on Thursday afternoon, where he announced R1.67 trillion expenditure for the financial year.

Gigaba said consolidated spending in the medium term would increase to R1.94 trillion, representing a nominal annual average growth of 7.6 per cent, or 2.1 per cent in real terms.

The Department of Higher Education and Training received the largest reallocation of resources towards government’s priorities, Gigaba said.

“As a result, this is the fastest-growing spending category, with an annual average growth of 13.7 per cent.

“Accordingly, this government is proud to implement a major step forward towards our ultimate

goal of guaranteeing access to higher education and training for all South Africans who qualify based on merit, not class position,” he said.

Last year, former president Jacob Zuma announced that government would provide free higher education for students from poor and working class households, which Gigaba said will be phased in from this year.

“This means that all new first-year students with a family income below R350 000 per annum at universities and TVET colleges in the 2018 academic year will be funded for the full cost of study.

“This will be rolled out in subsequent years until all years of study are covered. Returning National Student Financial Aid Scheme students at university will have their loans for 2018 onwards converted to a bursary,” he said.

The allocations are expected to increase the number of students supported by the scheme from 230 469 this year to 1 123 212 students in the next three years.

Political Bureau