South African universities have welcomed the release of the Heher Commission report but are still deliberating its 750 pages before announcing what this means for the 2018 academic year.
Universities had been waiting for the Presidency to release the Fees Commission report since President Jacob Zuma received it in August. Zuma commissioned the report in January 2016 following the initial round of Fees Must Fall protests. The Presidency’s recommendations would guide universities on how to table budgets for next year. The report did not announce free education, but recommended income contingent loans (ICL) for students and scrapped application and registration fees.
Spokespeople from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) said the universities welcomed the release of the report. CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley also said executive will study its contents so that it can ultimately implement the appropriate financial planning measures for the 2018 year. TUT will study the recommendations in the report and the potential implications in-depth before the university can make any further announcements.
In a statement on Monday, the University of Cape Town (UCT) also said it is grateful to have finally received the report. This was after students protested on campus and marched to Parliament, and UCT management also engaged the president, for the release of the report in October.
UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola told The Daily Vox that the institution cannot comment substantially on the report “as the executive still has to study the report fully and have internal discussions around it,” to understand it’s impact on the institution. UCT’s executive was impressed with the thoroughness of the report and the way inputs from academics were included in the final report, the statement said.
Spokespeople for The University Currently Known as Rhodes and Walter Sisulu University also told The Daily Vox the respective universities have applied themselves to the contents.
Simularly, the University of Pretoria’s (UP) spokesperson Jocelyn Newmarch said UP is “currently studying the report before making a decision about the next steps”. Newmarch said neither the UP’s council nor its executive has control over national policy on funding for universities. “The fees issue is a national problem which requires a national policy decision,” she said. “We will continue to work with all parties to find ways of making education more accessible.”
Louis Jacobs, North West University (NWU) spokesperson, said the report will be discussed at the University Management Committee meeting on 15 November. Its financial committee will make budgetary recommendations regarding for 2018, including an announcement about tuition fees, on 23 November, after which Council will make a final decision. “NWU remains committed to manage the institution in a financially viable manner and to ensure that quality regarding teaching-learning and research is maintained,” he said.
Vice-Chancellor of TUT, Professor Lourens van Staden was concerned about the timing of the report’s release. “The timing of the release, in the middle of the final exams is a concern. There are some good recommendations in the report but the higher education sector needs more definite answers. Hopefully there will be answers to the questions before the 2018 academic year commences,” he said.