University student fees – A trilemma of trade-offs

University student fees – A trilemma of trade-offs

CHET director Nico Cloete argues in a University World News article that students, political commentators and vice-chancellors alike have demonstrated a disconcerting lack of knowledge of international higher education funding and tuition fees systems during the 2015 #FeesMustFall debate.

In South Africa, as in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, tertiary education is affordable only by a low percentage of high income citizens. Goverment spending is low and has become even lower in recent years, leading to an exponential increase in student fees. Globally, free education benefits the middle class more than the poor, because with "high accumulated cultural capital they gain access to university at a much higher rate than the poor."

Cloete concludes that free higher education is not the solution to inequality many have argued it is, since increased access for poor students comes with a corresponding increase in access for affluent students. Instead, he argues, free education has to be supported by a larger development project which sees a significant increase in public spending from goverments designed to increase private spending. According to Cloete there is no such thing as free education, but if South Africa were to look toward a model for its own attempt at lowering student fees, or eliminating them altogether, the best example of a developing country that has been successful in maintaining free higher education while increasing research output is China.


To read the full article on University World News, click here.