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Most of South African politics is about race, even when it seems to be about something else. Which is why the demand for free higher education is really about racial divisions in the universities and the society. Last week, academics and students met at a conference to analyse the conflict on campuses. Many enthusiastically endorsed free higher education. But, for much of the gathering, there was no discussion on the economic pros and cons of the demand: the debate centred on racial divides at universities and the need to change a pattern in which many black students feel that campuses are still designed to meet the needs of the racial minority.

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