Universities South Africa Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ahmed Bawa, has told the Fees Commission in Pretoria that the setting of fees and annual budgeting have always been the prerogative of university councils.
Bawa says universities started experiencing financial constraints during the global economic crisis eight years ago.
He says the sharp decline in government subsidies has contributed to the negative financial affairs.
“For most of the period up to 2004 fee increases were really quite consistently around CPI. What happened after that was that we began to have a gentle but serious kind of decline in subsidy per FTE. So the decline is not in the total amount that Treasury gives the Department of Higher Education and Training, it is the FTE related subsidy. Up to around 2004/5 it was very rare that the fee increase will be beyond CPI… it would be round about CPI. In fact there was a kind of understanding that it will be around CPI.”
Chairperson of the University Councils Chairpersons Forum, Mbulelo Bikwani, has meanwhile, told the commission that unilateral decision-making regarding annual tuition fee increases and lack of uniformity, has contributed to the current crisis.
“For some Universities the issue of fees is in the domain of the Council and that’s full stop. Council makes the decision about fees even at our university. But there is a process that gets to Council. In some Universities I understand it just gets to your finance committee. Management makes a proposal to the finance committee and the finance committee then recommends to Council that this is how much fees – this is the percentage of the increase.”[Source: SABC]