Fees Commission report released: a roundup

DITEBOGO TSHAKA

On 13 November the Presidency released the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training, otherwise known as the Fees Commission report/Heher report.

President Jacob Zuma received the Fees Commission Report on 30 August. The commission, established by President Zuma, was charged with looking into the feasibility of free higher education after the Fees Must Fall protests across universities in 2015 and 2016. The Commission was led by Judge Jonathan Heher, assisted by advocate Gregory Ally and Leah Khumalo.

Perdeby highlights some details we found in the executive summary and report:

 

1-  The report states that although “everyone has a right to further education… a large proportion of existing and future students will be unable to exercise that right because of dire economic need.”

2- The report says that “there is insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone all students, whether in need or not”.

3- Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) education should be fee-free for all and stipends made available to cover the full cost of study. This is because the Commission believes that “successful economies place an emphasis on producing technically qualified, work-oriented ‘graduates’ in numbers which outweigh those of university graduates”.

          I.            Therefore, TVET colleges will require more money for “curriculum improvement, infrastructural development, the improvement of teaching standards and better provision of workplace training”.

          II.           R50 billion should be transferred from the surplus of the Unemployment Insurance Fund for infrastructure development of TVET colleges.

4- A cost-sharing model for funding university students was suggested. If adopted, it would be in the form of an income contingent loan (ICL) scheme. It would be a deferred loan scheme for all students, and offer an opt-out provision.

5- The ICL model would be a “public/private partnership between the state and the private financial sector”. Therein the private financial sector would make loans available to university students “up to the full cost of study”. The state would either purchase the loans or guarantee their repayment.

6-  The non-negotiable principles of the ICL scheme include:

          I.            Those who can afford to pay must pay. Therefore, there’ll only an obligation to repay if and when an ex-student achieves a specific income level. This may increase with an increase in income level.

          II.           The setting of income levels, loan interest rates and other terms must be designed to place the lightest possible burden on the debtor.

7- ICLs should replace NSFAS in funding university students.

8- Application and registration fees for institutions of higher education and training should be scrapped.

9- The creation of an education fund was recommended. This would encourage companies, individuals, international aid agencies, and other to donate towards developing higher education, bursaries, etc.

10- The report recommends a partnership be established “between government; [and] other state agencies such as the [Public Investment Corporation] PIC and municipalities; private student housing providers; parents/guardian; and sponsors to determine affordable housing for students”. This would include “transportation arrangement for facilities that are away from campuses”.

11- The report suggests that meals be provided “at reasonable prices on campus or in residence catering facilities should be considered” as “this would be a cheaper option”.

12- Institutions are encouraged to make efficiency savings and academic support improvements through the use of ICTs [Information and Communication Technology Services] where possible.

13- Tuition fees for students should be regulated according to the advice of the Council on Higher Education (CHE). This would ensure that that they are fair and affordable, and that universities are able to access the funds they require to carry out quality teaching.

 

Please note that these are only recommendations according to the report. Nothing has been finalised for implementation yet.

 

The full report can be viewed here. 

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