South African universities and technikons are set to receive a massive 23.25 per cent boost in funding following a decision by education minister Sibusiso Bengu to reverse a decade-long slide in real terms funding for higher education.
The planned increase to government subsidies will put an extra R830 million (Pounds 14.8 million) into the coffers of institutions, raising the amount spent on universities and technikons from R3.57 billion during the last academic year to R4.4 billion during 1996/97.
Professor Bengu announced the increases at a meeting of the Committee of University Principals. Not surprisingly, vice chancellors were delighted.
CUP chief director Jos Grobbelaar, said: "It shows that the Government recognises the role higher education has to play in the future development of South Africa. There are a lot of priorities for the new government, so this recognition of higher education is very encouraging."
Technikons and historically black universities stand to gain the most. About 31 per cent more money will be spent on technikons and 20.9 per cent more on universities. This means government subsidies will rise from 62.8 per cent to 66.2 per cent of a university's expenses, and from 61.1 per cent to 68.2 per cent of a technikon's expenses.
Most institutions will receive a straight percentage rise in the allocations they currently receive, and the increase will include a 3 per cent improvement in the subsidy allocation for staff to address an estimated 12 per cent shortfall in pay in the past.
In addition, the government has promised R150 million to institutions to begin rolling back "serious backlogs" in buildings. Historically black institutions, which suffered badly under a combination of poor funding and high growth in student numbers, will also receive a significant boost.
The new allocations will recognise student numbers, enabling black universities to be funded on the same basis as their historically white counterparts.
Black universities will also be favoured with large ad hoc allocations during 1996 to help relieve the backlogs they bore under apartheid.
The University of the Western Cape will receive the biggest increase among the universities, with a 49.39 per cent subsidy hike. The University of South Africa - the country's large long-distance learning university - should be pleased with a 26.1 per cent increase. The University of the Wi****ersrand will receive only an 8.8 per cent rise.
Worst off will be the four universities formerly controlled by independent homeland governments: the Universities of Fort Hare, the North West, Transkei and Venda. During the years of subsidy decline, they fared relatively well and are likely to receive subsidy cuts of around 6 per cent until their allocations are comparable with other institutions.
Professor Bengu's plans have still to receive final approval in April, but he and the CUP are confident that it will not meet opposition in parliament when the new budget is finalised.
The minister is also keen to see changes to the current subsidy formula, which is being investigated by the National Commission on Higher Education. The commission is due to report at the end of March.