No student who meets the requirements for admission to a university course should be excluded for financial reasons.
This is the submission made by Equal Education to the Fees Commission which held its public hearings in Cape Town on Monday.
Equal Education‚ a social movement of learners‚ parents‚ teachers and community members‚ said students should be funded for the “full cost of study”‚ including registration and other fees‚ accommodation‚ costs of meals‚ travel and books.
Equal Education also said government needed to increase the funding by at least an aggregate amount equal to the ratio achieved in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries to address the issue of the chronic underfunding of the higher education system.
OECD is a 35-country organisation which includes most European countries‚ THE USA‚ Canada and Australia.
Equal Education said that in 2011 South Africa’s state budget for universities as a percentage of GDP was 0.75%‚ which is more or less in line with Africa as a whole (0.78%).
“When compared to OECD countries (1.21%) and the rest of the world (0.84%)‚ South Africa lags behind in this regard‚” Equal Education said in its submissions.
The organisation said the cost of higher education in South Africa was not a substantial burden for the affluent.
It said families with an annual income of R1-million or more spent less than 10% of their income on average annual fees and living expenses in the region of R80 000 as estimated by National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
“Another consequence of the inequality inherent to South Africa’s basic education system is that school leavers from low-income areas are underprepared for university-level work‚ as well as university entrance examinations.
“The issue at hand is accessibility to higher education for the poorest of the poor‚ and integration of students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.”
The organisation said that if fee-free universities were to be implemented‚ admissions could not be based solely on meritocracy‚ but rather should utilise a form of affirmative action focused on student diversity.
The commission‚ headed by Judge Jonathan Heher‚ will inquire into and make recommendations on the feasibility of a fee-free higher education and training in South Africa. — TMG Digital