Wits University and the University of Cape Town are among 16 out of 26 public universities in South African facing sever financial distress in the 2017/18 financial year.

This is according to a parliamentary reply from the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, to the DA revealing the names of universities in distress as revealed by the department’s Council for Higher Education.

“The reply reveals that 16 out of the 26 universities in South Africa, or a staggering 62%, will face financial distress in the 2017/18 year,” the DA’s Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, Belinda Bozzoli.

The 16 universities are in order of  highest to lowest deficit are:

1. Walter Sisulu University
2. University of Limpopo
3. University of KwaZulu-Natal
4. University of the Witwatersrand
5. Tshwane University of Technology
6. Rhodes University
7. University of Fort Hare
8. Cape Peninsula University of Technology
9. Central University of Technology
10. Vaal University of Technology
11. University of Cape Town
12. University of the Western Cape
13. Mangosuthu University of Technology
14. North West University
15. University of Johannesburg
16. University of Venda.

In total, the projected deficit faced by these institutions amounts to R3.97 billion for the same financial year.

“The extent of the financial distress is based on modelling conducted by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). This is most likely attributable to the protracted underfunding of our university sector for more than two decades,” Bozzoli said.

“Our universities have been facing an uphill financial battle with no end to this crisis in sight as the Minister of Higher Education and Training tinkers with policy solutions to mitigate this impeding destruction of our university sector which will leave students in a worse off position that they are already in,” she added.

Earlier this month, frustrated student bodies threatened refreshed #FeesMustFallReloaded protests should the Higher Education department announce an increase in tertiary fees for next year.

This after 2016 fee increments were completely scrapped by President Jacob Zuma as a result of last year’s original #FeesMustFall protests.

Two weeks ago, the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training set up by President Zuma,  held public hearings with various student organisations to hear submissions from various stakeholders on free higher education in South Africa.

A number of student groups from different parties pulled out of the hearings following an announcement by Zuma that the Commission’s report on the feasibility of free higher education, originally set to be released this year, will now submit it in June 2017.

Reports that fees are set to increase between 6% and 8% next year further added fuel to the fire.

“The financial crisis at universities has a massive impact on the poorest of students, putting their futures at risk. It will also have far reaching knock on implications for our economy as essential research produced at universities is put under pressure,” Bozzoli said.

[Source – DA, image – CC 2.0 – Ian Barbour]