The DA has received disturbing new information today detailing that the shortfall in funding for Higher Education and Training over the next three years now sits at a startling R120 billion.
This information was supplied to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education this morning in response to my request after the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) recently admitted to the committee that it could not achieve its goals at the current funding level.
I will today write to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, to demand a full breakdown of the additional funding shortfall created by the President’s promises to fund all fee increases for 2016, and some of the increase for 2017. It is vital that we know how much has been allocated to each institution, and on what basis that allocation was made.
The figures outline the shortfall in funding to universities, TVET colleges and community education over the next three years. The ambitious targets in each of these arenas cannot be met.
This is the amount of funding needed by DHET in order to fulfil the basic directives from the President and the Minister, as well as the objectives outlined in the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training (PSET).
But there is further cause for alarm as the R120 billion shortfall does not take into account the promise made by the Minister and the President that 2017 fee increases for students from families earning less than R600 000 would be funded by the state. We learned yesterday that Wits has had to increase fees by 8% as they did not receive all the funding promised from last year’s announcement that the state would cover 2016 increases.
The current fees crisis is only one element in this financial disaster. When direct funding to universities decreases, the shortfall has to be made up somewhere – specifically through increasing fees, with the disastrous consequences we have seen over the past two years.
The root cause of the fees crisis, as well as of chronic failures in the TVET sector and the complete failure of the Community College sector to get off the ground at all, has been the steady underfunding of the Higher Education sector by the ANC government.
The President and Minister continue to make promises that they simply cannot keep, yet the universities are left to deal with the consequences and protestors.
We may now have the details of the funding shortfall for the basic DHET directives, but the Minister has yet to give us a transparent account of funding responses to the Fees Must Fall protests.
If the Department cannot even meet its basic directives, where will the budget for temporarily calming the Fees Must Fall movement be found?
It’s time for the DHET to re-evaluate the White Paper’s Higher Education goals, and deal decisively with the cause of our current crisis. The Minister needs to set more modest goals for the Department in all areas of its endeavours. He needs to take charge and develop a realistic and transparent plan to address the Higher Education funding crisis, instead of lurching from one emergency to the next.
Prof Belinda Bozzoli MP
DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training