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Dept of Higher Education defends university funding model

The department says the current model was adopted because of the limited resources available.

FILE: Students protest at Parliament in Cape Town for free education on 22 September 2016. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Higher Education says the current university funding model, where government partially supports institutions, was adopted because of the limited resources available.

A debate on government policy and whether basic education has been prioritised over higher education has dominated the Fees Commission of Inquiry in Centurion today.

The discussion revolved around whether higher education is considered a public good or a private good, and how this informs government funding.

The Higher Education Department's Diane Parker says "White Paper 3" sets out higher education as a public good but also as a private good.

"'White Paper 3' states that individuals who gain goods of higher education receive lifelong private benefits, in terms of their ability to earn and become upwardly mobile in an economic sense."

She says this laid the grounds for the funding model.

"In a country with such great inequality, it's sad that we need to have a cost-sharing model for higher education, and that we need to share those costs between private and public beneficiaries."