Universities braced for fee proposals
South Africa’s 26 public universities are awaiting recommendations from the higher education ministry on a tuition fee hike for next year.
Universities South Africa — the body representing vice-chancellors — told Higher Education Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize at a meeting last Friday that they needed an 8% increase in university income.
Some universities, including the Northern Cape’s Sol Plaatje University and North-West University, have already projected a tuition fee increase of 8%.
University of the Witwatersrand vicechancellor Adam Habib said yesterday no decision had been taken yet on a fee increase. “We have agreed at our executive committee meeting that as soon as guidance from the ministry comes we will open up the engagement with the student representative council. Universities are in a difficult position because they need to conclude budget discussions.”
He said Mkhize had indicated that she would only be able to make a recommendation once the Heher fees commission report was released.
University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Max Price said tuition fees made up about half of UCT’s income, and staff salaries would have to be cut if there was no fee increase.
He said most students understood that fees needed to go up.
North-West University vice-chancellor Dan Kgwadi said whether students or the state paid for the increase would depend on the commission’s report.
Yunus Ballim, vice-chancellor of Sol Plaatje University, said: “In order to keep our doors open, we need an income increase of 8%.”
Meanwhile, some student leaders of newly elected SRCs said they would not participate in negotiations over fee increases until the fees commission report was released.
EFF Student Command president Peter Keetse said: “There is no use fighting with VCs [vice-chancellors]. It is not them that will give us free education, it’s the government. We will not waste students’ time by shutting down, we will mobilise the community from primary to tertiary students because this affects all of us.”
His sentiments were echoed by student leaders at other institutions.
Mxolisi Zoko, publicity officer of Walter Sisulu University’s SRC, said that, because of exams, the student body had not taken any decision to shut down.
“If the report does not favour us, we will have to mobilise the broader society, not just students, because our goal is free education. We also refuse to engage in fee-increment meetings until that report is released.”