South Africa faces more unrest as university fees decision looms

Institutions warn of financial peril if increase is not permitted by ministers

August 15, 2016
Burning tyre

South Africa’s university campuses look set for another round of unrest as students oppose a possible increase in tuition fees.

Fees at the country’s higher education institutions were frozen last year after nationwide protests against increases proposed by vice-chancellors, but universities have warned that they will face serious financial difficulties if a rise is not permitted for the 2017 academic year.

The country’s Fees Commission, which is holding hearings into the matter, was told that five universities had made a loss in 2014 and that this number would grow if fees were not increased.

In its presentation, the University of Pretoria said that it would make a loss of 100 million rand (£5.8 million) if tuition fees for next year were not increased by more than 8 per cent.

Expectations of a fee increase were heightened by evidence given to the commission by the South African Treasury, which showed that officials had not budgeted for a tuition fee freeze in 2017.

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande asked the country’s statutory agency for universities, the Council on Higher Education, to investigate future fee regulation and was told that the “most defensible” option was an “across the board” increase in line with inflation.

The South African Union of Students, which has been campaigning for free tuition, has threatened a major round of demonstrations in protest with the aim of shutting down universities.

Mr Nzimande has called for calm. He was due to make an announcement on fees on 12 August but postponed this in light of the council’s report.

“Given the competing views on fee adjustments, it is indeed imperative that we get as broad a consensus as possible regarding 2017 fees,” The Citizen quoted the minister as saying.

The Fees Commission heard that tuition fees made up almost half of total income at institutions including the University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University.

Meanwhile, fees accounted for nearly a third of revenue at some of the country’s most prestigious research institutions, including the universities of Witwatersrand, Pretoria and Cape Town.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate