Will fees be hiked?

2017-12-15 18:16

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Is the University of KwaZulu-Natal considering an eight percent increase for its fees next year?

The Witness understands that the university’s council held a meeting with presidents and general secretaries of the institution’s various Student Representative Councils (SRCs) last month, where a fee increase was discussed.

But a UKZN spokesperson said on Thursday that a decision on a fee increase had not yet been made. They said internal notices informing staff about fees were usually sent out in January, but there was no set time-frame for this to occur.

Senior SRC members told The Witness on Thursday that they were opposed to the apparent increase, and will next year likely try to lobby the university to reconsider.

They also said the university may have held the meeting so late in the year — when most students have gone home for the holidays — to “circumvent” having to discuss an increase with students.

UKZN students have been adamant that they are for free education, since the Fees Must Fall movement began in 2015. While the university has seen several protests lobbying for free education in the last three years, it appeared to be calm this year.

SRC members said they will wait until the beginning of the academic year next year to engage with students.

Newly sworn-in central SRC president Sandile Zondi said: “Students had written exams and left already at the time we met [with UKZN], so it’s a challenge communicating with them. We are planning to find a solution next year.”

Another SRC member, who asked not to be named, said about 60 SRC members had discussed the fee increase at a caucus meeting last month. He expressed pessimism at their chances of getting UKZN to squash the increase next year, but said he “doesn’t think it’s impossible”.

“Hopefully we can persuade without protesting ...”

Meanwhile, Universities South Africa (Usaf), an umbrella body for universities and their vice chancellors, said yesterday that most universities agreed after engagements to cap possible increases at eight percent.

A spokesperson for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) told The Witness yesterday that this agreement was made after various meetings with minister Hlengiwe Mkhize in the last few weeks.

The DHET said, however, that it had no authority to enforce a fee increase cap, and the eight percent agreement was essentially a “gentleman’s agreement” among universities. Any decision to enforce an increase was down to the university itself, it said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn

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