UWC supports fee-free education with state support

2016-09-05 20:04
Parents of UWC students. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Parents of UWC students. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town - The University of the Western Cape supports free education for the poor and the “missing middle”, but must receive sufficient support from the state.

Addressing the fees commission in Cape Town on Monday, academic deputy vice chancellor, Professor Vivienne Lawack, warned against a one-size-fits-all approach to institutions.

The university was financially sound, but did not have the necessary reserves to sustain itself for an extended period without funding.

“UWC can only survive [in that situation] for less than two months and that is the stark reality, despite our growing reputation.”

She said state funding through a subsidy had declined 11% since 2000.

“Fee-free higher education must factor in the annual increase in income required by universities to support academic success and research activities.”

The commission was given an overview of the university’s difficult journey since its inception in 1959. It had to battle under-resourcing, racial perceptions, and severe financial problems.

On Monday, the historically disadvantaged institution has a large proportion of students from a poor background.

Almost 70% of students who registered this year were unable to pay the required registration fee and upfront payments.

Evidence leader, advocate Kameshni Pillay, asked what the impact was of a no-fee increase at the university in 2015 and in 1995.

Financial director Manie Regal said the impact last year was R56m in lost income per annum. 

The impact in 1995 was R5m in absolute terms, or almost R200m in accumulated loss this year.

“We are very concerned by how the future looks if we get any particular year wrong,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma established the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training in January, following countrywide protests against university fee increases late last year. It is investigating the feasibility of free higher education.

The first set of hearings was for the commission to receive an overview of issues from various organisations.

There would be a second hearing in Cape Town on Tuesday. Hearings would take place in Bloemfontein and Kimberley this week.

Read more on:    uwc  |  education  |  university fees

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