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'Free tertiary education could limit enrolment numbers'

The education department says in an environment of limited funding, there must be limited enrolments.

Students rally supporters in lecture halls on Wits campus after Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande failed to deliver a free tertiary education policy. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

PRETORIA - The Higher Education Department says an unintended consequence of free higher education could be to limit enrolment numbers and base them solely on academic merit which invariably disadvantages the poor.

The department has made its submissions to the Commission of Inquiry into Free Higher Education.

The commission heard that the department would fully implement free education for the poor if the funds were made available.

The department's Diane Parker says there is an absolute priority to ensure that with access to university comes success.

"There is no point in increasing enrolments in an unfettered way without ensuring that you are able to provide the kind of quality that would lead to the success of those students."

However, she says in an environment of limited funding there must be limited enrolments if you want to ensure the quality aspect of the education.

"What it would in effect do would be to advantage the most educationally advantaged, who are generally the economically advantaged as well."

The Presidency is scheduled to make its submissions tomorrow.

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