0% Fee increase will be a death knell for universities

PUBLIC LECTURE: Prof Jonathan Jansen has warned that another 0% fee increase for tertiary institutions will be a death knell for universities

Prof Jonathan Jansen has warned that another 0% fee increase for tertiary institutions will be a death knell for universities. Jansen was scathing in his opinion of the current Fees Commission and the fact that the Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande is expected to make a suggestion on fee increases for 2017 soon.

The fact that politicians and not university councils will be making suggestions on fee increases along with the fact that the Fees Commission is managed by a panel of Judges and not academics with a vested interest in the crisis remains a sore point for Jansen.

Speaking at the third CPUT Public Lecture on the topic of South Africa Higher Education in crisis: Possible Solutions Jansen told the audience that Africa is littered with broken universities who held great promise a few decades ago but are now essentially defunct, as a result of state interference.

“Today the same thing that took down those universities are the same things that will cripple ours- state interference is politicians deciding what fee increases should be,” he says.

Coupled with the legacy of underfunding education and the chronic instability facing university staff on an almost daily basis Jansen says we are sitting on a ticking time bomb.

“The only thing that does is chase away the top academics and the fee-paying students because they have options. People who can pay will pay for safety and send their kids overseas and the academics with options leave for greener pastures,” he says.

Jansen says the future of strong, vibrant universities rely on us protecting the rights, not only of the marginalised poor but also of the middle-class.

“The middle-class students are desperately needed in universities. Not only do they cross-subsidise the poor but they also add to the rich cultural mix that make being at university life changing. Take them away and you are left with poor kids and the lecturers that no one else wants. At my university many students will meet a black person for the first time on a nominally equal basis. These are important relationships that need to be built for the betterment of the country,” he says.

Ultimately Jansen says the secure future of Higher Education in SA will need three key interventions.

  1. Free education for only the poor
  2. The middle-class must pay for the privilege of Higher Education
  3. And finally the bursary funding model must work sustainably to enable the government to recoup the funding for future generations.

Jansen will be leaving South Africa soon to take up a nine month stint at Stanford University where he will be a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Behavioural Sciences. He will step down as the Vice-Chancellor of Free State University in September after seven and a half years at its helm. When he returns he hopes to set up a grooming centre for promising PHD candidates.

“No one showed me how to be a good academic, I just happened into it all. My dream is to mentor and groom young academics about what good scholarship is all about,” he says.

Watch the lecture on YouTube below.

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