Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for university tuition fees to be regulated, because the costs of higher education were escalating far quicker than inflation.“Regulate the fees that are charged. Access should a right, and not a privilege. Fees need to be affordable for the poor, working class and even middle class.”Ramaphosa made the comments during his keynote address at the opening of the second Higher Education Transformation Summit in Durban today.His comments came as students at the University of the Witwatersrand were protesting against an increase in fees.Ramaphosa said the government’s exponential increase of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme was negated by a corresponding rise in tuition fees in many universities. The government had increased funding for the scheme from R3 billion in 2009 to R10 billion this year.Prioritise transformationThe deputy president said he hoped that the transformation discussions would be robust, frank and constructive.“Let us not be afraid to be critical and self-critical. Let us desist from our national sport of blame-casting and finding. Let us ask ourselves what can we do to help transformation and to give effect to the injunction found in our Constitution.“On the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter let us speak about the light that comes from learning and how we are still kept in the dark.”Investing in education was one of the government’s apex priorities, he said, adding that the National Development Plan sought to transform universities, make them centres of excellence and put them at the forefront of cutting-edge science and technology.Improve productivity and qualitySouth Africa currently produced fewer than 1500 PhDs in one year, but Ramaphosa said by 2030, the country should produce about 5000 a year.“Is it doable? Yes, it is. A well-functioning education system is critical for sustainable and equitable growth. The best way to reduce inequality and increase wages is to invest in education,” he said.The summit should also look into the lack of black managers, professors, lecturers in universities. Although the participation rate of black students had increased dramatically in recent years, Ramaphosa said it was shocking that they still accounted for less than 15% of all students, despite the fact that black people made up more than 75% of the population. “The low participation of black students is untenable for social justice and for meeting the needs of our economy.”Ramaphosa said that apartheid’s misrule and bad education had caused the economy to not be on par with some of the world’s best performing economies.“Our economy would be operating in par with the best economies of the world. The misrule held us back, apartheid education held us back, otherwise would have been an more prosperous and advanced nation.”Higher education, he said, should play the leading role in overcoming the devastating effects of apartheid education.