Government not keen on allowing private universities: Nzimande

Minister of Higher Education Dr. Blade   Nzimande  during the press conference on the 2017 fees adjustments and ongoing consultations with key stakeholders.  Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN.
Minister of Higher Education Dr. Blade Nzimande during the press conference on the 2017 fees adjustments and ongoing consultations with key stakeholders.
Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN.

Government is not keen on allowing private universities on a full-blown scale‚ higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande has said.

The minister told the fees commission sitting in Centurion‚ Tshwane‚ on Thursday that private universities posed a serious threat to the public education sector.

Nzimande said allowing private universities would result in an increase in the cost of higher education‚ academics being poached from the public sector as well as the loss of the financial contribution of wealthy students to the public higher education sector.

“We need the wealthy students in the (public sector) in order for them to pay fees…we are under pressure to allow private medical schools. We have a problem with this‚” he said.

The minister said the demand for financial support for the poor in the public education sector was huge‚ saying it would be unjust to fund students in private institutions but said this was a matter that required further consideration.

He said what could be done was to fund students enrolled in private institutions for programmes that were not available in public institutions and classified as critical skills.

The minister however said he did not see NSFAS funding students in private colleges.

Nzimande slated the NSFAS model for not funding students according to the country’s skill needs‚ saying it funded students who qualified regardless of what programmes they enrolled for.

“One day we will have to face that question‚” he said.

The minister lamented that 40% of NSFAS funded students failed their first year‚ only one in three completed their programmes in record time.

He reiterated the government’s stance on free higher education for all‚ saying this was not government policy‚ “It has never been and will never be. Those who can afford‚ the wealthy‚ must pay”

The commission‚ chaired by Judge Jonathan Heher‚ was established in January to inquire into‚ report on and make recommendations on the feasibility of a fee-free higher education and training in South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission following protests by university students last year against the high costs of university education.

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