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Two years and counting - University fees frustration mounts

Max Price‚ the University of Cape Town’s vice-chancellor. Picture: Gallo
Max Price‚ the University of Cape Town’s vice-chancellor. Picture: Gallo

With student protests beginning to flare up again at various campuses across the country‚ the University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor‚ Dr Max Price‚ has expressed “grave concern” at the delayed release of the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training established nearly 24 months ago.

President Jacob Zuma received the final report of the Heher Commission on the feasibility of free higher education at the end of August.

Price said in a statement on Monday night: “UCT‚ like all South African universities‚ has to plan its 2018 budget and would normally have concluded consultations on the next year’s fees with the Students’ Representative

Council and other stakeholders by September.

“However‚ not wanting to pre-empt the recommendations of the Fees Commission we have delayed decisions on fees pending the release of the report.

“The failure to release the report also prevents stakeholders‚ including students and university Councils‚ from responding to the proposals on the sustainable funding of higher education in South Africa and‚ in particular‚ on ensuring access for all who can benefit from it.”

He added: “The uncertainty impacts on the ability of students and parents to plan financially for the next year.

“We will not be able to delay decisions on fees for much longer. We therefore appeal to the President to release the report for public scrutiny and debate.”

Commenting on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement‚ which will be delivered in parliament tomorrow‚ 25 October‚ by the Finance Minister‚ Price’s statement said public higher education is chronically underfunded – the UCT allocation from government is expected to increase by only 4% in 2018 while costs will increase by about 8%.

“This real decline in funding will inevitably compromise the global success and standing of South African

higher education‚” said Price. “We call on government to increase the core budgets to universities to ensure greater access and quality for all.”

Zuma established the Fees Commission in January 2016 following violence that swept through campuses across the country‚ resulting in the shutting down of several campuses.

In a memorandum served on the Presidency at the Union Buildings in Pretoria last week‚ the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) gave Zuma two weeks to release the report or face another shutdown.

The Free State and Stellenbosch universities are proposing an 8% increase in fees for 2018.

Students at Free State embarked on protests last week. On Monday‚ the university said it would reschedule exams for students traumatised by the fee increment protests on its campuses. They have the option of writing a week later.

The university’s student representative council (SRC) president Asive Dlanjwa said: “Ultimately fee-free education is a goal‚ but we demand that the president release the Fees Commission report. The university cannot propose a fee increment without having regard to the commission’s views on the matter.”