Tag: feesmustfall

President Jacob Zuma is planning to make a shock announcement‚ introducing free education across the board through a controversial funding plan that flies in the face of the findings of the Heher Commission‚ government insiders say.

The plan‚ apparently devised by Zuma’s future son-in-law‚ Morris Masutha‚ would also defy official ANC policy. It could see the cutting back of departmental budgets across government to make R40bn available for the 2018 academic year.

Zuma has been withholding the 748-page commission report‚ in which retired judge Jonathan Heher reportedly found that universal free tertiary education was not feasible.

The announcement is thought to be imminent but the presidency on Monday night said there were no plans by the president for any announcement on Tuesday.

Masutha‚ who is engaged to be married to Thuthukile Zuma‚ the president’s youngest daughter from his marriage to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma‚ referred questions to the National Treasury.

“I think you might want to get input from those respective departments [the Presidency‚ Higher Education and National Treasury).… And not me personally‚” he said.

The Department of Higher Education was not immediately available for comment.

Masutha‚ who has apparently acted as Zuma’s “point man” on the fees issue‚ has made presentations to ANC officials and an inter-ministerial Cabinet committee on his self-devised funding plan‚ which essentially revises the National Treasury’s entire budget.

It is understood that following Zuma’s sudden Cabinet reshuffle last month‚ Masutha was introduced to Higher Education and Training Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and Deputy Minister Buti Manamela‚ as the president’s “adviser”.

Zuma has apparently assigned Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and his director-general Mpumi Mpofu the task of implementing the plan‚ which requires cutbacks in departmental budgets to make funding available. Mpofu‚ who was appointed in July‚ is said to have been working with a team from the Treasury to “find the money for Zuma”.

A government insider said the matter was dealt with directly by the director-general outside of the ordinary work of the department.

If the plan proceeds‚ it is likely to cause chaos throughout the state system as budgets are allocated according to programmes.

It also undermines Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s statements when he presented the medium-term budget policy statement last month. He said a funding shortfall of more than R61bn over the next three years would be created if government were to finance the full cost of study for 40% of undergraduates.

He said further announcements on higher education funding would be made in the February budget.

If Masutha’s plan is adopted‚ it could be an instant trigger for a credit downgrade to junk status by ratings agencies.

But sources say Zuma has disregarded the National Treasury and the Heher Commission’s findings‚ and believes that his future son-in-law has found a solution to the higher education crisis.

Masutha is the founder of the Thusanani Foundation‚ an education nongovernmental organisation (NGO) working on addressing disparities in rural schools.

At his graduation ceremony at the University of Johannesburg‚ where he was receiving his master’s degree in local economic development‚ Masutha held up an ANC T-shirt with Zuma’s face‚ apparently as a statement against white academic staff.

Earlier this year‚ Masutha opined that free university education would come with an estimated cost to the state of between R6.5bn and R7.5bn.

He proposed that the government should foot the bill for tuition fees‚ accommodation‚ meals‚ transport and all study material. “No poor and working class student must be partially funded‚” he wrote at the time.

Masutha wrote that the final report of the presidential commission on higher education funding should come up with an “inclusive and comprehensive higher education funding model for all undergraduate students”. He added that these recommendations should be ready to implement in 2018.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said he did not know of any plans by Zuma to announce free tertiary education.

ANC insiders said they had heard of Masutha’s proposals but did not know whether it would be feasible at all.

By Ranjeni Munusamy, Qaanitah Hunter and Sabelo Skiti for Business Live

The recent #feesmustfall protests in South Africa have crippled the country’s tertiary education sector. And while the intentions were originally to promote free education, rising incidents of violence and looting have resulted in an unintended outcome: the idea of the private university.

Private universities could save the state millions of rands, says Piet Mouton, CEO of PSG, which, through its holding in Curro, plans to expand into higher education.

His group, with a 58% stake in private school operator Curro, intends investing some of its R1.7-billion cash pile in “private higher education institutions”, which Curro is setting up on the back of its teacher training colleges.

It already has a teacher training college in KwaZulu-Natal, Embury, for 3,000 students. Next year two higher education institutions for 1,600 students in Midrand and 1,000 students in Pretoria are due to open, while 3,000 to 4,000 students will be catered for at a tertiary institution in the Western Cape in two to three years.

Curro is busy designing courses and degrees and getting them accredited, a process that will take two years.

Curro CEO Chris van der Merwe said it intended to accelerate the growth of its private higher education institutions because there are 50,000 eligible students who cannot find places in public universities.

Anthony Clark, an equity analyst at Vunani, said given the strength of its academic brand, Curro’s move into private higher education made “absolute logical sense” for itself, the government, parents and investors.

“Given that domestic higher education in this country is under enormous stress, if I were a parent looking at the scandal going on in universities and had the option of sending my child to a private university, I’d be quite happy with that.”

The implosion of public universities could provide the gap for private alternatives, but Van der Merwe and Mouton deny they are capitalising on the crisis.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has made it clear to the fees commission that the government is not in favour of allowing private universities, which he said posed a serious threat to the public education sector.

Nzimande said they would lead to an increase in the cost of higher education and academics being poached from the public sector as well as a loss of the financial contribution of wealthy students to public universities.

But Clark said the fact that the government was “not exactly keen on domestic private universities” is “no reason for investors to hold back”.

Van der Merwe said degrees at Curro institutions, which would have the same accreditation as those in the public sector, would cost about R40,000, which is in line with public university fees. Curro universities will not receive government subsidies – which, he argued, constitutes a saving for the government.

Mouton said the Curro institutions would cater for the 50,000 students who, according to the company’s statistics, are turned away from public universities every year in spite of having a university exemption matric.

He said that without alternative private higher education institutions, children of wealthy parents would leave the country.

“And the capital outflow is then significant. Instead of spending R50,000 locally, the parent may be spending R500,000 per annum abroad. That’s a straight cash outflow from the country,” said Mouton.

As for posing a threat to public universities, he said parents’ first choice would remain recognised public universities such as Stellenbosch, the University of Cape Town or the University of the Witwatersrand.
Given a choice between CVs from a Curro private higher education institution and an established public university, most corporate employers would select the latter, he said.

“It will take a very long time for that wheel to turn.”

But he added: “That is the case at the moment. With the right level of marketing and making sure you give good-quality education, you can change that over time. I certainly have no intention of investing in a university whose graduates can’t get a job.”

Curro sees the institutions as a logical extension of its teacher training colleges, which it started four years ago and which offer only BEd degrees. “The moment you train a high school teacher you need a BCom, BSc and BA degree because they need to teach accounting, maths, science, languages and so on,” said Van der Merwe.

Curro’s institutions of higher education (certain degree and research criteria have to be met before they can be called “universities”) would only offer courses that will lead to jobs, he said. “We won’t do degrees which don’t fit in with corporate needs.”

They will do research, however. “You cannot call yourself a fully-fledged higher education institution if you don’t do research, so we will do it, but nothing like at the big universities. It is very expensive.”

They would be like small, niche, private universities in Brazil, the US and the UK, he said.

He scotched suggestions that they would be predominantly white.

Thirty thousand of the 42,000 pupils at Curro’s private schools are black and there is likely to be a similar demographic at its higher education institutions, he said.

“If you analyse the 50,000 who don’t get a place at university, they are predominantly black. So these will not be predominantly white institutions.”

By Chris Barron for Sunday Times Business

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