Responding to questions in the National Assembly, Nzimande dismissed weekend media reports that President Jacob Zuma had instructed him and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to find the money to be able to ensure a zero percent fee increase for students next year.
“I have on the basis of the recommendations of the presidential task team report on short term challenges on university student funding, and after consultation with university vice-chancellors, requested the Council on Higher Education to provide me with advice on a regulatory framework,” Nzimande told MPs.
“I am currently discussing this advice with a wide range of stakeholders in order to make my recommendation to university councils, who are the bodies responsible for setting fees within the public higher education system. These discussions are not yet complete and it is therefore premature for government to announce what interim measures it would be taking in respect of fees and subsidies to universities in 2017.”
Democratic Alliance MP Belinda Bozzoli challenged Nzimande, asking how he would prevent 19 universities from becoming dysfunctional should a zero percent increase be carried over for a second year running – something the council had warned the minister would happen.
Nzimande replied that he was consulting with Treasury to find the money to prevent the collapse of universities.
“I’m in consultation with various stakeholders, including the minister of finance, so at an appropriate time, we will make an announcement,” he said.
“The issue of the precarious nature of some of our universities is a matter that will have to be addressed in the context of the necessity to increase funding for the post-school education and training sector, something my department is seized with.”