University funding in a mess - Maimane


The Democratic Alliance (DA) has accused Higher Education Minister and South African Communist Party (SACP) General-Secretary, Blade Nzimande, of restricting access to higher education institutions by calling for an increase in tuitions fees.

According to an article in CityPress on Sunday, the department has suggest price hikes in BA undergraduate degrees of up to 50% for 2016, with institutions hardest hit including the University of Cape Town (UCT) (R46 000 to R69 000), University of KwaZulu-Natal (R45 860 to R68 790) and North West University (R40 750 to R61 125).

Last week, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) suspended its proposed hikes after students at its Braamfontein campus, embarked on a three day protest against a proposed hike of 10.5%. Earlier today, management at Rhodes University in Grahamstown halted lectures as students began blocking roads with burning tyres and dustbins. Similar actions have also broken out at UCT.

In a statement, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said while the party welcomes the decision by under fire Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib, the question of funding at government institutions has been left “in a mess”.

“When universities do not get enough funding and support from the Department of Higher Education, and when NSFAS – which should be funding every poor South African student who gets accepted into university – is short of R51 billion, the ANC demonstrates that it doesn’t care about poor students,” he said.

“The truth is that students should be protesting outside the office of Minister Blade Nzimande himself. If President Zuma is serious about creating opportunities for young South Africans, he needs to expedite the establishment and work of the Higher Education Task Team to find extra funding for tertiary education”.

Taking a further swipe at Nzimande, Maimane stated that the Minister should allocate more time to addressing the department’s problems rather than those of the tripartite alliance.

Speaking at the closing of the Higher Education Summit in Durban on Saturday, Nzimande stated he remains hopeful that the problems would be sorted out, before brushing aside public comment that the “department is going to the dogs”.

“Considering the current economic challenges and fiscal constraints facing the country, I urge all university councils and management to exercise greater caution and sensitivity in the process of determining fee increases in their institutions,” Nzimande said.

“There must be greater cooperation, collaboration and cost management amongst universities instead of rampant competition amongst universities for scarce resources. As a country we all need to take responsibility for the strengthening, ensuring sustainability and transforming universities to meet the needs of our country”.