Max Price. Picture: UCT
Max Price. Picture: UCT

Delaying the release of the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training by the Presidency is holding back the University of Cape Town’s budgetary plans for 2018, says UCT vice-chancellor Max Price.

On Monday, Price penned his plea for the release of the report, saying under normal circumstances UCT would have concluded consultations on the upcoming academic year with the Students’ Representative Council and other stakeholders by September but has had to hold off pending the outcome of the report.

"The uncertainty impacts on the ability of students and parents to plan financially for the next year. We will not be able to delay decisions on fees for much longer. We therefore appeal to the president to release the report for public scrutiny and debate," said Price.

In its submission to the commission UCT submitted that fee-free higher education for all in the current economic context was neither equitable nor likely to be affordable given other social priorities and the envisaged lack of meaningful economic growth over the medium term.

With an allocated budget of R40m, the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training — also referred to as the fees commission — was set up by the Presidency to establish the financial state of higher education and draw up a road map that would answer the call of students for free higher education that emanated from the #FeesMustFall protests of 2015 and 2016.

The commission, chaired by retired Judge Jonathan Arthur Heher, began its work in 2016 and President Zuma received the report at the end of August 2017 after hearings were completed in April.

Price joins a list of other bodies such as Sasco, the Higher Education Transformation Network and Nehawu who have called for the report to see the light of day.

Releasing the report would assist in clarifying the policy stance of the government with regards to planned fee increments for 2018.

Earlier this month Stellenbosch University declared a 8% increase in student fees for 2018, despite the Presidency not having made a declaration on fee free higher education. The university said its long-term financial stability and world-class academic qualifications depended on the fee increase.

Meanwhile, the University of Pretoria, University of Witwatersrand, Walter Sisulu University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Cape Town indicated that they would be awaiting the Fee Commission’s report before making any fee announcements.

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