South Africa urged to raise spending on higher education

13 Nov 17

The South African government should increase spending on higher education to at least 1% of gross domestic product, a presidential commission report released on Monday said.  

This would be an increase from the current level of 0.75% of the country’s GDP of $300bn.

The report recommended that funding for higher education and training is increased for “providing quality education and infrastructure needs”.

It also recommended that all students should be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed income-contingency loans sources by commercial banks.

The Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training was set up in January 2016 in response to protests by university students calling for free education.

It was set up to “add to into the body of knowledge and evidence that will inform government’s decision making process in pursuit of a sustainable solution to the on-going higher education funding matter”, the presidency said.

South Africa’s higher education budget has been a source of controvest after it was alleged that president Jacob Zuma would announce free higher education but was stopped by the Treasury.

However, the presidency has refuted the claims that Zuma was due to bring in free education.

A release from the government news agency said: “At no stage did he plan to make any announcements that would undermine the work of the commission”.

The Treasury also announced on Monday that deputy-director-general Michael Sachs, a senior official in charge of the budget, had resigned because he wanted to serve the public sector in a different capacity. This followed news reports that Sachs had complained over the presidential interference in the budget process.

South Africa’s growth outlook was slashed from 1.3% to 0.7% last month due to political and social policy uncertainty.

The OECD warned that South Africa would need radical reforms to revive growth and called for a universal student loan scheme contingent on future earnings to make higher education more accessible.  

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