Universities have raised concerns over possible retrenchments should there be no fee increase for 2017, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday.
“The universities have the issue of [dealing with] the implications of whatever action we take in relation to this matter. That was why we were in discussion and sharing the report. The report itself does point out what the consequences of the fee increase would be across the board. We are looking at all these things,” he said.
Nzimande was referring to a report he received on Thursday from the Council on Higher Education on recommendations for 2017 fee adjustments. He decided that further consultation was required.
Nzimande said on Monday that the ministry’s conundrum was that it had to take into account “the feeling of students but, at the same time, we must also look at the viability of our institutions”.
He said he was concerned that universities would start retrenching or close down certain programmes.
“Some of our institutions are at a very precarious position, so we have to take into account all [of] that.”
He said he was consulting with his colleagues in Cabinet so that “we don’t inflict damage”.
Pressure is mounting on Nzimande’s department as student leaders planned to begin consultations and mass meetings on Monday to pave a way forward on the issue of student fees.
The South African Union of Students, which claims to be the largest federation of student governance representation, says it has lost patience with the government and will accept nothing but a 0% fee increase at all universities in 2017.
While government deliberates over next year’s university fees, students leaders have threatened to shut down universities across the country should the government implement a fee increase.
Nzimande had been expected to make an announcement on Friday on the Council on Higher Education report, but the briefing was cancelled. – News24