South African universities are ranked the best in Africa, and some do well even at global scale. But these universities need funds to keep up the standards. As it happens, much of the funding comes from the students through tuition fees. South African Universities have proposed fee increases of up to 12% next year.
Unsurprisingly, this has not gone well with the students. Many universities in South Africa were forced to close down due to recent FeesMustFall demonstrations. These include highly regarded institutions like Wits University and University of Cape Town.
The opposition for tuition fees does not come from poor people alone. High tuition fees inevitably mean increasing inequality. In South African context this means widening racial divide between whites and colored communities. Subsequently few people dare to support increased fees.
The latest news has that South African president Jacob Zuma has scrapped fee increases for 2016, which marks a clear victory for the students. Still at current levels fees are high enough to prevent the poorest students from attending Universities. The pressure is on to lower the fees. This should be the target indeed, but the standards of learning must not be the cost. It is to be expected that universities will demand even higher increases next year, which will again lead to even stronger protests – that’s how a cycle is created.
Previous Africa This Time Blog post (August 18, 2015): List of best universities in Africa released – South Africa leads the way