Varsity funding - ANC govt a victim of its own success

Johannesburg – The difficulties facing universities were partly due to the ANC government falling victims to its own success, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande told broadcaster eNCA on Sunday.

"At one level we are victims of our own successes as the ANC government because the university sector has really grown, it has doubled since 1994 and it’s now majority black and majority women," he said in an interview.

He was asked whether his department was not guilty of contributing to the funding crisis universities were facing.

He acknowledged there had been a decline in government funding to universities. This was because the system had been growing faster than the "core money" government was contributing.

The country could afford free education, but Nzimande said the money to fund it was in the private sector. It would cost R37bn over the next 3 years, in addition to the R9.5bn in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).

Responding to criticism that the government had shown no willingness to translate its 2012 Mangaung conference resolution on free education into reality, Nzimande said there was not enough money in the public sector.

"The fiscus has been stretched and my own view is that we should look at all these proposals being made to get more money, whether you use the wealth tax, or you raise the skills levies, but it’s very clear that money will also have to be gotten from the private sector, because they are the principal beneficiaries from the graduates that we produce from our universities."

He said the financial impact of the 0% fee increase for university fees for 2016, which President Jacob Zuma announced on Friday, was still being calculated. More detailed information needed to be gathered from the universities themselves. The funding shortfall was “plus minus R3bn”, he said.

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