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R1.9 billion allocated by government to offset zero fee hikes at universities in 2016

The Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations as well as the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training have unanimously agreed that funding for the post-school education sector has to be increased.

This follows a joint meeting held today as part of the hearings on the 2015 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS)‚ parliament said in a statement.

The three committees were briefed by the Department of Higher Education and Training on funding of the post-school education and training sector‚ including on the implications of the no fee increment at universities for 2016.

The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Appropriations‚ Paul Mashatile‚ said: “It is clear that funding for post school education has to be increased. As for the extent of the increase‚ that is something that still has to be debated as we continue with our hearings in the next few weeks as part of the MTBPS processes.

“We have been given assurance by the DHET that funds will be made available in the 2016/17 budget to deal with the shortfall resulting from the no fee increment. Funds will also be made available in the current departmental budget (2015/16) to assist universities that may have difficulties with funding in the first few months of next year before the new financial year. With this assurance‚ there is therefore no need to amend the adjustment budget.”

Seiso Mohai‚ who is the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Appropriations‚ said that work was ongoing over to long-term plans on post-school education funding.

“We were afforded an opportunity to have an understanding of the extent of the challenges and in responding to these‚ there is a need to come up with a comprehensive plan catering for both universities and TVET colleges. The fact that resources have been found in the system to cover the shortfall means that we can cast our eye on the long-term interventions when dealing with the MTBPS processes.”

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training‚ Yvonne Phosa‚ said all these developments are a result of ongoing efforts to ensure that poor and academically deserving students got access to post-school education and training.

“The 0.62% of the GDP apportioned to higher education is clearly insufficient. More funds have to be found in order for the DHET to be able to deliver on its mandate. We’re also emphasising the need for the government and private sector to partner in dealing with the funding challenges. It’s also important to shift the focus from universities to the post-school sector as a whole‚” she said.
The DHET’s presentation indicated that there would be a shortfall of R2.330 billion resulting from the no fee increments in 2016. The Department‚ in consultation with National Treasury‚ will contribute R1.935 billion while universities will put in R394.7 million.

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