OPINION

DA to challenge Commission’s legal reasoning involving Zuma – Belinda Bozzoli

Party says universities are autonomous organisations which are meant to set their own fees with govt only setting subsidy levels

University Fees: DA to challenge Commission’s legal reasoning involving Zuma

11 August 2016

The Commission for Higher Education Funding’s statement yesterday saying that it would be up to President Zuma to set fees for 2017 seems to show a fundamental misunderstanding of the law governing universities, under which universities are largely autonomous organisations which are meant to set their own fees, while it is up to government to set subsidy levels. It is particularly worrying that the statement was made by Judge Heher, Chairperson of the Commission.

The DA will today write to Judge Heher to request clarity on the legal reasoning for this statement.  

Though the statement does not appear to be a formal recommendation, it is nonetheless concerning and also appears to be a passing of the buck to the President while the nation waits for recommendations from the Commission. It is important that any findings of the Commission are consistent with the law, and that the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder must be clear.  

The primary role of the state in the financing of universities is to provide adequate subsidies. Universities then set fees to cover the shortfall between expenses and state subsidies. The only role the state, let alone President Zuma, has in setting fees, is by providing adequate subsidies to prevent above inflation increases.

The DA’s own submission to the Commission provides proposals which, among other things, call on higher state subsidies to keep fees affordable and to ensure sufficient funding to NSFAS. The DA will continue to provide solutions to the funding crisis in higher education as government continues to pass the buck in the face of the urgent needs of universities and students.

Issued by Belinda Bozzoli, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, 11 August 2016