Uni­ver­si­ties braced for fee pro­pos­als

Sunday Times - - WEEK IN REVIEW - PREGA GOVEN­DER and SIPHE MACANDA

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.”

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