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Wits cuts operation budget to hire more workers

The University of the Witwatersrand had to institute some wide-ranging cuts in its operational budget to make provision for insourcing, while also staving off a deficit, vice-chancellor Adam Habib told Business Day this week.

The university cut its budgets for professional and administration units 8% and for faculties 6%, he said.

Habib has previously warned that the university would be in the red if the more than R400m in outstanding student debt is not paid.

The university hired more than 1,500 workers at the beginning of 2017. This was one of the demands of the student-led #FeesMustFall movement.

One of the immediate benefits to insourced workers was salary increments, because they had previously been earning below-average wages.

The financial implications of this would be evident in the 2017 financial results, Habib said.

Habib confirmed that the university managed to steer clear of what would have been its first deficit in 11 years, largely by making budget cuts.

This has had unpleasant implications for students and lecturers, who have had to do more with less.

"By making tough decisions and tightening our belts, we managed to avert a crisis," Habib told Business Day.

The university derives its funding mainly from government grants, as well as from tuition and other fee income, and research contracts.

Student Representative Council president Kefentse Mkhari said many students did not have tutors because of the budget cuts.

Mkhari also said that he did not believe money was an issue for Wits, otherwise the university would not be making plans to roll out biometrics security, while some of the students still did not have accommodation.

"The budget cuts are used to justify that #FeesMustFall protests were bad and that we should not protest," Mkhari said.

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