One of South Africa’s most respected tertiary institutions, Rhodes university, is close to a financial crisis, according to the Democratic Alliance.
According to the political party, it has emerged that Rhodes University “now has less than two months of funds to cover its financial commitments such as salaries, electricity, water and food for the dining halls”
The DA cited a circular sent to enrolled students last week.
Rhodes, which is situated in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province, claimed it had “never before been in such a difficult financial position at this time of the year”.
Last week, the university took the decision to withhold the results of students who had not paid at least 50% of their fees.
“It is clear that the financial difficulties in the higher education sector have affected even formerly wealthy universities. Both WITS and UCT have already announced austerity measures, including the cutting of staff. And unsurprisingly, historically disadvantaged universities are even worse off,” said Prof Belinda Bozzoli, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training.
In October 2015, president Jacob Zuma announced a zero percent fees increase for 2016, translating into a multi-billion rand shortfall for universities across the country.
Research conducted by the DA showed that government subsidies for SA institutions have dropped to 40%, from 50% in 1994.
“The government appears to be blind to the fact that South Africa’s universities are in serious financial trouble across the board. This comes after years of falling real subsidies from government which have forced universities to rely on increasing student fees.
“The moratorium on fee increases has put universities under even greater pressure, and the financial support for student debt in this year’s budget has failed to remedy the situation,” Bozzoli said.
The DA last week made a series of proposals to government in its submission to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into fee-free higher education.
Among these proposals were to:
- Increase state subsidies of Universities to appropriate levels;
- Expand NSFAS to cover the missing middle;
- Stabilise student numbers until funding has stabilised; and
- Continue to collect fees from those who can afford them.
The DA noted previously that students owe South African universities as much as R4 billion in unpaid fees and residence expenses.
Rhodes did not respond to BusinessTech by the time of publishing.
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