The money has to come from somewhere - Heher on Zuma fees annoucement

accreditation
Students singing ahead of Fees march to Union Buildings. (File, Lerato Sejake, News24)
Students singing ahead of Fees march to Union Buildings. (File, Lerato Sejake, News24)

Johannesburg – The announcement of fee-free education for poor and working-class students has been welcomed by universities and retired judge Jonathan Heher, who headed a commission on the feasibility of that outcome.

This follows President Jacob Zuma announcing a wide range of changes related to tertiary education funding on Saturday morning.

The definition of poor and working-class students were those whose combined family income did not exceed R350 000 per annum.

READ: Zuma announces free higher education for poor and working-class students

Heher happy but reserved

Speaking to News24 on Saturday, Heher said he was happy that a number of recommendations put forward by the commission had been adopted by the president.

He said the announcement that funding would be increased to include stipends for books, food, travel and accommodation, as well as an overall shift to provide more funding to tertiary institutions was positive, but he could not provide informed comment on the matter.
 
"The money has to come from somewhere, and until we are told where it is coming from, I cannot comment on it in an informed manner," he said.  

READ: Zuma's fee free call noble, but can SA afford it? Gigaba says wait till Feb

Universities happy with announcement

CEO of Universities SA, Ahmed Bawa, which represents the 23 public universities in South Africa, said the announcement was a mixed bag, but overall positive.

"We are very pleased that the issue of critical underfunding of tertiary institutions has been recognised and is being addressed," he said, in relation to the president’s announcement that subsidies for tertiary institutions would increase from the current 0.68% of GDP to 1% over the next five years.

Bawa said they were also extremely thankful that the government had adopted the idea of grants and not loans, which was a proposal that they had put forward to the Heher Commission.

READ: Zuma’s “grants not loans” for tertiary education flies in the face of Heher Commission

"We are extremely pleased about the recognition that one cannot have higher education that is not affordable. This means that young students who have the potential, and who have been admitted, but who did not have the financial means, can now gain access to study further," he said.

He said the universities also welcomed the increase of the threshold for qualifying students whose combined family income does not exceed R350 000 per annum.

Some concerns

Bawa said there were three main areas of concern that Universities SA were worried about.

The first was the long term sustainability of the subsidies, as there had been no indication yet as to where the funding would come from.

He said they were also concerned that the new funding model only applied to first year students for 2018, which he felt would not sit well with other students.

Further, Bawa said there had been no consultation with them between the release of the Heher Commission Report and the announcement by Zuma.

"We were hoping that there would be some round table discussions where issues such as the implementation could be discussed, but no such meetings have taken place," he said.

University fee increases unaffected

Bawa said universities had already been in discussions with the Minister of Higher Education, Hlengiwe Mkhize, around fee increases for universities for 2018.

Bawa said universities had indicated that they were factoring in an 8% fee increase for the financial year, and that the department had made provision to cover the increases for qualifying students.

"While the increase will reflect on the student's fees, the increased amount will be covered by a government subsidy for those who qualify," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
The EFF has voted with the DA to ensure they now govern Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. Was this:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
A brilliant strategic move by the DA not to make formal coalition agreements
24% - 1739 votes
A brilliant strategic move by the EFF to force the DA to negotiate with them
16% - 1159 votes
A recipe for disaster and five more years of unstable local government
60% - 4270 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.27
-1.9%
Rand - Pound
21.71
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
18.42
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.59
+0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.14
-0.0%
Gold
1,792.60
0.0%
Silver
23.13
0.0%
Palladium
1,751.49
0.0%
Platinum
955.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
72.72
-11.6%
Top 40
62,411
-2.6%
All Share
68,615
-2.8%
Resource 10
64,074
-2.5%
Industrial 25
92,909
-1.3%
Financial 15
12,995
-6.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE