Nzimande breaks down the cost of ‘free’ university for 2016

 ·5 Nov 2015

In the little time that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande spent answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday, he mostly went through figures for funding, including the R19.7bn needed for university subsidies.

His figures were mentioned by the director general of Higher Education and Training, Gwebinkundla (Gwebs) Qonde, to the standing committee on appropriations earlier in the day.

Nzimande said that in order to ensure an appropriately funded higher education sector, in terms of international comparable benchmark funding levels, an additional amount of R19.7bn per annum is required in the baseline for university subsidies.

This was excluding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), with an annual increment for inflation and enrolment growth to meet the National Development Plan targets.

“To ensure that 25.5% of student enrolments are funded through NSFAS – which is our assessment of the percentage of students who qualify for NSFAS – to cover the full cost of study loans for poor and working class students, an additional amount of R37bn is required in the baseline over the 2016, 2017 to 2018 to 2019 medium term expenditure framework,” Nzimande said.

Qonde’s presentation also said the NSFAS threshold for funding was currently R122 000 family income per annum, and is under review.

Nzimande reitered this in the National Assembly when asked about it by the EFF.

He said that if there was a shift on the threshold for family income, it would have “implications within the context of pressures we experience…”

“Let me just correct it now. It is not free higher education for everyone. It is free higher education for the poor until at least attainment of first tertiary qualification. Don’t twist it now…. Free higher education for the poor is an ANC position and has always been an ANC position.”

University funding implications

According to this morning’s presentation the number of matric pupils estimated to qualify academically for university will increase from 172 000 in 2013 to about 250 000 by 2019, increasing pressure on universities to expand.

This constituted approximately 30% of National Senior Certificate students each year.

The remaining school leaving students (70%) must be catered for through other opportunities, such as TVET and CET colleges and skill development opportunities. The system currently caters for approximately one million university students, 720 000 TVET college students and 330 000 CET college students.

The presentation looked at university funding implications for next year’s no fee increase.

Based on figures from universities, the shortfall in 2016 due to the no fee increase is R2.33bn. This is made up of a tuition fee increment of R1.915bn and a residence fee increment of R415m.

It was agreed, following consultation with all involved parties that the shortfall for 2016 will be shared with universities and government. Universities will contribute R394.7m, while the department in consultation with the National Treasury will secure the remaining R1.935bn.

The presentation by Qonde also looked at the longer term university funding implications of the 0% fee increase next year.

According to the presentation, the baseline for university funding must be increased by a minimum of R2.4bn in 2017 to offset the 0% increase in 2016, and maintain the current student population and programmes offered by institutions.

The state currently provides on average 40% of university budgets, which is down from 70% fifteen years ago.

In 2011, SA’s estimated higher education expenditure as a percentage of education (including NSFAS) was approximately 12%.

According to the presentation, this is significantly lower when compared to Africa at 20%, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries at 23.4%, and for the world at 19.8% in 2006.


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