National 30.7.2016 05:00 am

Varsity fee probe given more time

President Jacob Zuma.  (File photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali)

President Jacob Zuma. (File photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali)

The commission was meant to complete its work in eight months.

President Jacob Zuma has extended the deadline for a commission of inquiry that was mandated to probe higher education funding.

The commission, announced by Zuma in January following last year’s countrywide protests over the burgeoning costs of higher education, was meant to complete its work in eight months.

“The commission will now complete its work by 30 June 2017. The extension was done on the request of the chairperson of the commission, Justice Jonathan Heher,” Zuma’s office said in a statement.

“The commission is expected to submit a preliminary report to the president on or before 15 November 2016.”

Last year a number of university campuses were shut down after the #FeesMustFall campaign gained momentum and students stormed parliament.

This led to Zuma announcing a 0% fee hike for this academic year. Meanwhile, the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) expressed anger over the planned retrenchment of staff at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Rhodes University due to budget shortfalls.

Following the Higher Education SA statement about the plans of the two universities to retrench staff, HETN bashed the vice-chancellors’ decisions to resort to retrenchments to resolve financial shortfalls.

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price said funding for higher education had reached critical proportions as the university needed to save a minimum of R120 million by 2018 to stay afloat.

HETN spokesperson Ramafala Ramatshosa said the decision was appalling and was aimed at unduly sabotaging national higher education’s infrastructure through “selfish myopic management decisions”.

However, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the decision was aimed at enabling academic and administrative departments to meet savings targets. Moholola said several factors have contributed to the university’s financial situation.

“These include declining government grants over the last five to 10 years, insourcing of employees and lack of economic growth.”

– batlilep@citizen.co.za

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