What Blade’s no-fee varsity report says

Following a sustained campaign and the filing of a Promotion of Access to Information request, the higher education department on Thursday released the so-called No Fee Varsity Report to Amandla.mobi. As a result, everyone can now read the report Blade Nzimande wouldn’t make public.

The report, which many see as proof that the department has known all along about the challenges to making higher education accessible to all, has been sitting on a shelf since 2012. If you didn’t have time to read the 100-page report, don’t worry, we’ve pulled out the most important bits.

The key finding of the report is that free, undergraduate, tertiary education for the poorest students is feasible, but that it would require significant additional funding of both NSFAS and the university system. The working group that wrote the report estimated that it would have cost anywhere between R100-million and R1-billion to fund the class of 2013, which had an estimated 163,000 students.

The report had 12 recommendations. That:

  1. undergraduate education be financed through NSFAS but that “corporate governance, fund management procedures and loan recovery practices at NSFAS are completely overhauled and rendered above reproach”
  2. funding should be obtained, at least in part, from funds set aside for the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) and the National Skills Fund (NSF) by public and private companies for skills development
  3. funding mechanisms such as bursaries, short skills programmes, internships and corporate social responsibility funds be managed under a single, NSFAS umbrella
  4. the country should find new sources of funding for higher education, for example by asking international donors and large financial institutions to offer reasonable, state-guaranteed loans, to poor, final-year students
  5. matriculants who have gained university acceptance and who come from households earning less than the lowest SARS tax bracket (less than R54,200), should be initially and primarily eligible, and should not be required to make a household contribution
  6. those who come from households earning between R54,200 and R271,000 (in 2010 prices) should also be funded but these students should be asked to make some household contribution
  7. additional categories of needy children may be progressively included
  8. eligibility should be determined on the basis of a properly administered NSFAS means tests
  9. the report should be considered as the starting point for eventually developing a comprehensive student financial aid and academic support system which takes into account housing, nutrition, cultural inclusion, and career guidance at school level
  10. additional funds should be made available to cover costs related to providing improved academic support, tutorial support and residential or living-learning support mechanisms; affordable technological solutions; and improved class sizes at universities and better quality contact time between staff and students
  11. fees must be realistic, and that the cost of university study must be proportionate to a student’s ability to pay; students must contribute where they can and should have the option of doing so either financially or through community or public service
  12. current levels of government funding of public higher education institutions must be maintained or even increased

You can read the full report here.

– Featured image by Lizeka Maduna

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