29/10/2017 15:02 SAST | Updated 29/10/2017 15:02 SAST

Fees Won't Fall, But There Are Alternatives, Leaked Report Shows

The report says there might be different models that tertiary institutions could look to.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

It's taken two years to state clearly, but the report is out: universal free tertiary education will not be feasible in the foreseeable future, and different funding models should be adopted to ensure access for all deserving students.

This is according to the Heher commission's recommendations published by City Press on Sunday. The long-awaited report recommends a multi-layered approach, with the following being the main considerations:

- A "cost-sharing model", in terms of which the government commits to spending a fixed 1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to subsidise universities, with students paying fees according to a "fair and affordable" structure regulated by the Council on Higher Education.

- An "income-contingent loan" (ICL) system, in terms of which students would repay their debt based on their post-qualification salaries. This would, in effect, replace the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).

- The total scrapping of registration fees – a long-term bone of contention that fuels protests at the beginning of each year.

- A "fee-free" structure for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college students, who tend to come from poorer backgrounds, with 100% funding coming from the department of higher education and training.

- The introduction of a stipend for TVET students.

- Ring-fencing R50bn from the surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Fund for infrastructure spending on the TVET sector, which looks after vocational and training colleges.

- Increasing the government subsidy for the university sector to 1% of GDP.

- Channelling unclaimed pension benefits into the university sector to stabilise the ICL system.

- The establishment of an education fund for companies, individuals and international aid organisations to donate money towards higher education.

- That universities intensify their efforts to raise money from their alumni, as is the case in developed countries.

- That Sector Education and Training Authorities be streamlined and made efficient, and that savings be channelled to improving teaching and curriculum development at TVET colleges.

Though the report hasn't officially been released yet, South Africans had their say online about it's findings.

Read City Press' full investigation here.

The DA's Belinda Bozzoli said in a statement government needs to clear up the confusion. "The leak is bound to cause public confusion and concern. The commission's reported recommendation that a no-fee solution cannot be found was to be expected – and will itself be controversial in some student quarters."