South African government patches holes in student funding regime

Almost 7 billion rand (£310 million) made available to pay for fee freeze and student support

December 22, 2015
Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa
Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa. Source: iStock

An extra 6.9 billion rand (£306 million) will be pumped into South Africa’s higher education system to tackle a student finance crisis which triggered nationwide protests.

President Jacob Zuma said 2.3 billion rand would be allocated to funding the tuition fee freeze for 2016 which was announced in October after widespread demonstrations against proposed increases. The government will contribute around 1.9 billion rand, with universities paying for the rest.

In addition, the government will pay 4.6 billion into the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. This will fund loans to provide short-term debt relief to more than 70,000 students who received insufficient support between 2013 and 2015, and additional support for undergraduates in 2016.

Students in receipt of NSFAS support should not be required to pay for their tuition and registration fees upfront, Mr Zuma said.

The president added that a commission will be set up to look at “the introduction of free higher education to improve access for the children of the poor and the working class”.

A task team set up in the wake of the student protests also recommended that a new system of student loans, involving the private banking sector, must be set up for the “missing middle” undergraduates who are ineligible for government support but still face financial hardship.

“I believe that the recommendations will assist all of us as we pursue our mission to ensure that no poor, academically deserving student is denied access to higher education and training,” Mr Zuma said.

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