Another 0% fee increase will destroy SA universities - Jansen

Cape Town - The country’s universities cannot handle another 0% fee increase and it will break down decades of hard work, outgoing University of the Free State vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen has said.

A bad few months could bring down a century of good work at an institution, he said in a public lecture at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Bellville on Thursday.

“Another 0% fee increase, regardless of politics, will destroy our universities. You can build up a good university over 100 years, but you can destroy one in three months.”

Parliament's portfolio committee on higher education heard on Wednesday that 19 universities could become dysfunctional by 2018 if a 0% fee increase was carried over for a second year, News24 reported.

'What is the end game?'

Jansen said he was fine with the idea of a 0% increase, in principle, and that he was for free education for poor pupils.

“I don't mind a 0% fee increase, but you can't run a university with 0%. There has to be an income increase.

“At the end of the day, your ability to have universities that are of a high quality depends on what you do with your money.”

- Read more: Govt should never have intervened in fees crisis - Jansen

“When the economy grows at 0%, common sense tells you, there just is no extra money, for anything.

“The question is: what is the end game? Nobody so far - politicians, students, or educators - can come up with a solution.”

Zuma 'buying time'

The 59-year-old said state funding was crucial if the country’s universities were to survive the next few turbulent years.

“What the president did though, is he appointed judges to solve the crisis,” he said. He was referring to President Jacob Zuma’s establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into the possibility of free higher education. It started public hearings earlier this month.

“You can't have judges [overseeing this]. This is not a criminal case, this is not Marikana. We need people with expertise.

“This is a classic example of when you don't know what to do, you start a commission. He is buying time.”

Jansen is stepping down from his position at the UFS, to take up a position as fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University in the US next month.

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