Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande is likely to announce at least a 6% increase in university fees, with student bodies already warning of protests that will be worse than last year’s nationwide uprising.
And while universities await the government’s announcement of the expected fee hike, an organisation representing vice-chancellors has urged institutions to embark on a national campaign to educate students about the importance of paying tuition fees.
The strong call was made by Universities South Africa (USAf) in an apparent attempt to prevent a recurrence of the violent student protests that brought the country’s 26 universities to their knees last October.
Sources told the Mail & Guardian that the Council on Higher Education (CHE) – a body that provides advice to Nzimande – has recommended that next year’s fee increment be in line with consumer inflation, which is 6.3%.
However, the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) this week warned of ramped-up protests should a fee increase be implemented.
The government placed a moratorium on fee increases for this year following last year’s unrest, and provided universities with R1.9-billion towards the R2.3-billion shortfall they were facing.
President Jacob Zuma also appointed a commission of inquiry, headed by retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge Jonathan Heher, to investigate the feasibility of providing free higher education in the country.
Sasco deputy president Tsakani Shiviti said a fee hike was out of the question, and that students wanted to be told in January how free education was going to be implemented.
“As Sasco, we have mandated all our SRC [student representative council] representatives and student leaders to say that they are not going to feed into any discussions on fee increments. We have made it very clear to the department we do not want fee increments.”
Shiviti added: “If the government wants to force us to that angle [a fee hike], then that [protests] will be inevitable.