‘0% university fee increase for 2017 will be unsustainable’

The body has submitted a report to Blade Nzimande saying a 0% fee increase next year will be unsustainable.

FILE: A UCT FeesMustFall protester drums on a dustbin during the UCT protests on lower campus. Picture: Anthony Molyneaux/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Council on Higher Education has recommended an across the board inflation-related increase for South Africa's universities in 2017.

Earlier this year, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande asked the council to advise him on a regulatory framework for managing fee increases following numerous student protests.

Now the body has submitted a report to Nzimande, where it says a zero percent fee increase next year will be unsustainable.

The Council on Higher Education has advised universities to agree on a uniform fee increase which will be implemented in 2017.

It believes a blanket increase at the level of the consumer price index is the most favourable method to use.

According to the report, this method balances the interests of students with the sustainability of the higher education sector.

The council says universities are better off negotiating as one unit than having individual exchanges with students over increases.

However, many student bodies that have made presentations to the commission of inquiry into free higher education this week still maintain they want no fee increase next year.


Yesterday, National Treasury said it hadn't budgeted for another zero percent fee increase in the higher education sector next year.

Treasury said it hadn't made any plans for the decision to be rolled over to 2017 but it had planned for fee increases to resume next year and will now continue with involvement in fee discussions.

Treasury Deputy Director General Michael Sachs said, "We've budgeted on the basis that we will return to the situation of normal fee increases.

"But of course we're prepared to respond to changes if they're there."

Sachs said continuing with no fee increases will mean sourcing money from other aspects of the Budget.

With Treasury saying it's not willing to take out loans to spend more on higher education, it said the only other alternative is to increase taxes.

Lobby group Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) said it believed students should only pay university fees based on what they can afford.

The group made its presentation to the commission of inquiry into free higher education yesterday afternoon.

Like other student groups, it was also calling fees to remain flat despite National Treasury saying it hadn't budgeted for this next year.

Representatives from SLSJ said they didn't agree with calls for higher education to be free for everyone.

Nikhiel Deeplal said the rich, who can afford to pay, must do so to ease the burden of government having to subsidies universities.

"The rich must be able to subsidise the poor, therefore remove the billions that are being pumped into State institutions and we give it to individual students."

The group believed its proposed method will work better than the current system which sees National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding given to poor students, while those who don't qualify are disadvantaged.