'Fee-free policy will doom varsities'

05 July 2016 - 08:56 By BONGEKILE MACUPE


It would cost universities between R400-million and R2-billion to in-source all services - and if the country were to adopt a fee-free tuition regime some universities would collapse in a few months. This is the warning of Universities South Africa's Ahmed Bawa.Bawa took over at the organisation, which represents universities, in May after being vice-chancellor of the Durban University of Technology for more than five years.The organisation is determined to play a more active role in determining policy, something the government has largely dictated. To this end, the organisation recently established a funding strategy group, which will make a financing proposal to the Department of Higher Education and Training, and the Treasury, by the end of the year.Said Bawa: "The extra expenditure on in-sourcing in the university sector is likely to be between R400-million and R2-billion."If we move into a fee-free regime, the one thing that is completely clear to me is that, unless there is some way of ensuring that the fee-free component [lost to universities] is raised in some other way, universities will simply collapse. "We are talking about R30-billion and unless the Treasury comes up with that I just can't see us moving to fee-free."Our understanding at the moment is that there will be a fee increase in 2017 and that the fee increase is likely to be associated with the Consumer Price Index."What that would do in terms of the sector and its stability we are not really sure of."President Jacob Zuma recently established a commission of inquiry into the funding of higher education.

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