Universities have been forced to put their budgets on hold pending the announcement of fee increases for next year, causing serious delays in operational matters.
The tertiary institutions have warned that anything below an 8% increase would cripple them financially.
Both the University of Pretoria and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) say they can’t make plans until the announcement is made.
“The university cannot finalise its draft budget before an announcement has been made,” University of Pretoria spokeswoman Anna-Retha Bouwer said.
“It unfortunately delays the planning and budget processes for 2017, such as the ordering of books and equipment and other long-term planning processes,” said TUT spokeswoman Willa De Ruyter.
Minister of higher education & training Blade Nzimande has not yet announced the fee increase recommendations for next year saying he still needed to consult with all stakeholders.
This comes as a commission of inquiry looks at the feasibility of free education in the country. Fees Must Fall student leaders have warned government and universities that any fee increment for 2017 will lead to a resumption of protests.
City Press reported at the weekend that President Jacob Zuma ordered Nzimande to find money to fund a 0% fee increase.
TUT’s De Ruyter said it was important to note that not increasing fees would compound the operating deficits the university was experiencing. She said the institution supported the idea of no fee increments but plans had to be put in place to mitigate the challenges that come with it.
“TUT’s management and the chairperson of the TUT council supports a no fee increment, provided that government will cover the loss of income that will result from the decision. As a people’s university, the majority of TUT’s students are young people with lots of potential who have been dealt an unfortunate hand in life — they grew up in disadvantaged communities and circumstances.
“Limited access to or no financial resources for these young people often result in them being excluded from access important things in life, like tertiary education, due to the high cost. Taking cognisance of this fact, it has always been a consideration during negotiations on annual fee increases,” she said.
Bouwer said the recent Council on Higher Education investigation suggested that no university in the country can continue to function at an optimal level unless their income was increased by at least 8% in 2017.
“No fee increment in 2017 will place severe strain on our human resources, but no layoffs are planned at this stage. The presidential Fees Commission is currently investigating the possibility of a no fee dispensation for poor students. All tertiary institutions in South Africa are waiting for an announcement by the minister of higher education regarding the 2017 fees. He has indicated that he might make an announcement by the end of the month,” she said.
The Universities SA (USAf) and the University Council Chairs Forum (UCCF) agreed that anything below an 8% increment in 2017 would cripple universities.
Prof Adam Habib, chair of the USAf board, said based on their principal mandates to ensure high-quality university education and financially sustainable institutions, the vice-chancellors and chairs of council made it clear to Nzimande during a meeting that universities require a minimum increase of 8% in their annual income for 2017.
“This income could come from a variety of sources including the state subsidy, student fees and a complex array of other private sources of funding. An income increase of below 8% is likely to compromise the financial health of as many as 17 universities in the sector in 2017.”