Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has passed the buck and left it up to universities to decide how to adjust their fee increases for next year.
Nzimande decreed that the increase had to be transparent, reasonable and linked to inflation.
“It must not go beyond 8%,” he told journalists in Pretoria yesterday.
“We have looked at it from all sides and decided to let universities decide on increases. Universities cannot operate on less funds as things had gone up.
However, those students “who can afford” an increase will have to pay, while government covers the rest.
His department projected national treasury will have to fork out R2.6 billion to help cover the shortfall.
However, students at at least two universities have rejected his proposal.
Students at Wits have demanded free education, and protested after Nzimande’s announcement.
— Bertram malgas (@malgasie) September 19, 2016
Meanwhile, students and workers at the University of Cape Town will meet management today to discuss a list of demands.
UCT suspended lectures and tests yesterday as a precautionary measure in anticipation of the announcement.
Students blocked several roads but protested peacefully, and no incidents of violence were reported.
Workers want outsourcing to stop, and demand a minimum wage of R12 500 per month.
Nzimande said government would continue to look to support the “missing middle” students, who cannot afford to pay but do not qualify for NSFAS funding.
They are typically from a household income of up to R600 000 per year.
Government has insisted that “well-off” families will have to cough up for the increased 2017 fees.
“There are many students from upper middle class and well-off families, as well as students on full company bursaries in our institutions who can afford to pay the adjusted 2017 fees, and we expect them to do so,” said Nzimande.
Last year university campuses were shut down after the #FeesMustFall campaign gained momentum and even saw students storm Parliament and the Union Buildings.
This led President Jacob Zuma to announce a zero percent fee hike for 2016.