Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba

Varsities in dark over 2018 fees increase

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Oct 26, 2017

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National Treasury has painted a grim picture of the shortfalls in the funding of public higher education for the next three financial years.

This is at a time when all eyes are on President Jacob Zuma, who has yet to release the findings of the inquiry chaired by Judge Jonathan Heher into higher education and training.

Zuma received the final report in August.

“We await the president’s determination and announcement in this regard,” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said in Parliament yesterday.

He was delivering his Medium-Term Budget, as university students in the Western Cape marched to Parliament to demand Zuma release the Heher Commission’s report on the feasibility of free higher education.

The commission was established in January, 2016 following protests at higher learning institutions nationwide.

This week, University of the Western Cape vice-chancellor Dr Max Price led the call for the release of the report to determine the fee increase for 2018.

Price said that without the release of the report, the institution has had to put budgetary plans for next year on ice. This seems to be the same for most other institutions. The Stellenbosch University has said it will increase fees by 8%.

Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said they have not made any decisions on student fees for 2018.

“The university made extensive inputs to the commission on student fees in 2016. And TUT, like the rest of the public universities in the higher education sector, is eagerly awaiting the release of the presidential report and the decisions that will come from the government with respect to 2018 student fees,” De Ruyter said.

She said once the report was made public, TUT would finalise its budget and academic planning for the 2018 academic year.

“TUT supports the expediting of the release of the report to enable smooth preparations for the 2018 university academic year,” De Ruyter said.

Wits University spokesperson Buhle Zuma also said it was too early for the institution to make pronouncements on next year’s fees. “It is premature to make a decision on fee increases for 2018, without the release of the fees commission report. The university will have to make a decision on a fees increase, if any, at its final council meeting in December,” she said.

The council meeting at the University of Pretoria (UP) will be held at the end of next month, said spokesperson Candice Jooste.

“Like most institutions, UP will have to increase it fees and we’re planning to make an announcement as soon as we have an understanding of what is contained in the fees commission report,” she added.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) said while it was waiting for the report, it was “engaging with the UJ SRC, leaders of student societies and house committees,” spokesperson Herman Esterhuizen said.

“While we await the president’s pronouncements on the matter of fee-free higher education, UJ will continue to seek ways of further expanding financial and other essential support to our most vulnerable students,” Esterhuizen said.

Gigaba, however, said they would make every effort to ensure that academically deserving students were not excluded due to financial constraints.

“Further announcements will be made in this regard in the 2018 Budget,” he said.

Gigaba added that the students had correctly put the question of higher education at the centre of the transformation agenda.

“We cannot hope to grow and develop without the skills and intellectual capability that our universities and technical training colleges produce.”

The minister said the higher education budget would be increased from the R77billion allocated this year to R97bn in 2020/21.

This includes the monies allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to subsidise more than 450000 students from poor households.

Treasury had also earmarked R11.1bn to be spent on infrastructure projects at higher education institutions.

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