Is free higher education legitimate and affordable in SA? And, if so, which financial model should enable its implementation? These distinct questions are often conflated; as a result, neither is answered satisfactorily. Yet they lie at the very heart of SA’s university crisis. The legitimacy of the demand for free higher education is, of course, contested. If the question were posed to the protesting students, their leadership, and even many of those in solidarity with the movement, the answer would be a categorical yes. They would hold, at least implicitly, that universities and higher education institutions more generally should be instruments for addressing inequality. But this is only possible if these institutions enable access for students from marginalised communities, and provide support to and graduate such students, thereby facilitating class mobility. If, however, these institutions only enroll the children of the rich and the upper middle classes because of their high f...

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