Stellenbosch University limits library service

2016-09-19 18:50
Stellenbosch University during fees announcement (Jenni Evans, News24)

Stellenbosch University during fees announcement (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - The University of Stellenbosch said access to its library would be limited as the small Western Cape town waited to see how students would respond to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande's announcement on fees for 2017.

The students' initial response was muted, with many not aware of the details that were live-streamed earlier to a sparsely attended meeting at the Lillian Ngoyi auditorium on the campus. They sat on the lawn near the Jan Marais statue which was a central point in protests earlier this year over colonial era statues and a struggle over Afrikaans and English as the medium of instruction.

Last year students took to the streets of Cape Town as part of massive #FeesMustFall protests and tried to get into the National Assembly to confront the minister of finance, then Nhlanhla Nene, and Nzimande. After days of running battles with police, President Jacob Zuma announced a fee freeze for 2016.

Applications have already opened for next year, with parents and guardians anxious to know what the cost will be. Nzimande announced on Monday that there would be no increase for NSFAS students and the "missing middle" who came from families who earned less than R600 000 a year.

Nzimande said the universities must decide what they charge students who fall outside those categories. However, the fee increment has been capped at 8%.

The students who had gathered listened intently, exclaiming at Nzimande's statement that students from South Sudan and Rwanda would pay the same rate as South African students based on agreements that they would be categorised as Southern African Development Community students. Students from other African countries, such as Nigeria, would pay the higher international rate.

Help from government

They also spoke among themselves saying Nzimande was "playing with them".

Earlier this year, News24 asked Stellenbosch University about its approach to fees.

Stellenbosch University received a contribution of R79.2m from the Department of Higher Education and Training to finance the shortfall in 2016.  

In 2015 the university managed bursaries worth R658.7m, of which R115m came from its main budget. Approximately 24% of its students receive bursaries. 

During his announcement on Monday Nzimande said the universities did get a 6% increase last year that was funded by the state, even though there was an announcement that fees would not go up for students.

Stellenbosch explained that it has been under severe financial pressure for almost two years.

This is due to chronic under funding, a decreasing government subsidy and a considerable increase in the number of students.

New income streams

For this reason it supports the immediate establishment of a multiple stakeholder forum including the National Treasury, Nzimande's department, the private sector and university councils to arrive at a consensus on how to fund the 8% increase needed.

"For SU [Stellenbosch University] and probably most other universities, it will not be financially sustainable to function for another year without an increase in income," the university said.

To generate new income, universities are already offering more short courses, extending online study platforms and increasing income from contract research. 

A bigger emphasis is also placed on alternative sources of income such as commercialising intellectual property and generating income from products carrying the university's trademark.

It also offers accommodation to the public during the long recesses and applies stringent budgeting and tender processes.

No retrenchments or post freezes are in the pipeline at Stellenbosch yet.

Read more on:    cape town  |  education  |  university fees

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