Fees commission report: Fee-free higher education is not feasible yet

A fees must fall demonstration at the University of Johannesburg (Daylin Paul)

A fees must fall demonstration at the University of Johannesburg (Daylin Paul)

President Jacob Zuma has officially released the Fees Commission report into the feasibility of free education two months after it first landed on his desk. As rumours swirl that the presidency is interfering in budgeting process at the National Treasury in a bid to find money for free tertiary education, the report has made one thing clear: fee free higher education for everyone is not yet feasible in South Africa.

On Monday, the Presidency announced it would release the highly anticipated report. The report was handed to Zuma on August 31, but it has been shrouded in secrecy. The Presidency gave no reason why it was suddenly releasing the report.

Some of the recommendations of the report are as follows:

  • government increase expenditure on higher education and training by 1% of the GDP
  • government develop an affordable plan to fund and develop more student accommodation, prioritising historically disadvantaged institutions
  • all students at TVET colleges must be subsidised to cover the full cost of their education
  • students with debt who have since graduated receive income-contingency loans (ICLs) sourced from commercial banks
  • NSFAS be replaced with the ICL system
  • all undergraduate public and private university students be funded through a cost sharing system where the government guarantees ICLs sourced from commercial banks
  • application and registration fees must be scrapped

The Democratic Alliance submitted an application to the Presidency in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act over the weekend. Belinda Bozzoli, the DA shadow minister of higher education and training, said that it is “urgent and imperative” that the report be released to the public.

“There are now bizarre rumours of the President’s alleged infatuation with a shallow and incomplete ‘funding model’, crafted by a student and friend of his daughter,” Bozzoli said in a statement.

Sources have indicated that Zuma has seen a document that proposes social grants cuts and a freeze on RDP housing roll-out to help fund free education. The Mail & Guardian has confirmed that Morris Masutha - an ex-boyfriend of one of Zuma’s daughters - came up with the proposal. 

In October, City Press obtained a leaked version of the Fees Commission report. The newspaper said that the report indicated that it will not be possible to fund free education. 

Retired judge Johnathan Heher presided over the commission, which was established by President Jacob Zuma to investigate if free higher education is feasible.

Read the full report below.

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