Rhodes University vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela has warned that spiralling university fees are leading to the privatisation and commercialisation of higher education – to the exclusion of poor students. He said the funding shortfall in higher education was forcing universities to rely more on fees for operational requirements, resulting in steep fee increases.
“Using student fees to address the financial shortfall in higher education creates a significant financial burden for students who come from poor, rural and working class communities as this makes higher education unaffordable. This also leads to the ‘privatisation’ and ‘commercialisation’ of public higher education, which is meant to serve a good public purpose,” he said.
Mabizela said for some universities, the percentage of state funding had declined to less than 50% of the university’s operating budget.
Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib added that the issue of student funding was the biggest headache facing universities at the moment. His counterpart at North-West University, Dan Kgwadi, also echoed the statement, saying universities and government needed to boost their efforts to accommodate needy students.
“We have many students who are excluded for financial reasons. It is our responsibility to support bright students who are academically needy. The worst thing is to exclude students for financial reasons,” Kgwadi said.