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Persistent economic inequalities in higher education policies of South Africa. Should fees fall? A case study of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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1. Introduction Looking at the policies drafted in 1994 when South Africa became a democratic state, the aim of the study was to investigate if it was feasible to have free higher education when government had already failed the country on the existing policy or promise of free basic education. The question was: If fees were to fall, would this rectify the persistent inequalities of South Africa’s higher education system? 2. Aims and objectives The case for free higher education depends on two principle premises: (a) social equity: expanding advanced education access for poor people, particularly recently underestimated networks, notwithstanding expanding educational cost charges, and (b) development externalities. Given South Africa's abnormal amounts of abilities deficiencies, free higher education is deemed important to get human capital speculation to productive dimensions. The aim of the study was to establish the extent to which South Africa was ready to provide free higher education. The main objective was to find out if such a policy would address endemic inequalities in the country. 3. Methods This is a mixed methods study which employed primary qualitative data collected via desktop research and a bit of field work with the use of surveys and interviews. The decision to use a mixed methods approach was predicated on the understanding that no method is perfect. Secondly, it was to further enrich the study’s findings. Qualitative methodology allows the researcher to explore the nature of the case and to get in-depth understanding of different issues that might involve people’s actions, experiences and attitudes of implementing agents. 4. Results Free education in South Africa is an objective worth seeking after. It is important, particularly for those who are poor and need access to tertiary education but have no means to do so, as well as individuals who accurately consider it to be a privilege and a basic right for the nation. Germany has achieved this goal but unfortunately there is no African country which offers free higher education. There are countries that have tried it, but the expense of it all was far too much. The tremendous test is to make the trademark of “free higher education” attainable. vii 1. Recommendations Flowing from the findings of this study, the following recommendations are made: -We have to agree that poor students must be prioritized in terms of free education. - There should be a formula where parents and the state share costs. Parents must pay what they can afford while the state fills in the rest. In this formula, private sector contributions can be included to subsidize the scheme through corporate bursaries. -There should be a reduction in spending in other priority areas so as to be able to fund free higher education. Although this will impact people negatively, any investment in education is good investment. -Those in positions of power should refrain from corrupt activities so that government would have enough money to invest in higher education. -For the dream of free higher education to be realized all stakeholders should come on board (including the private sector). Government alone cannot deliver free higher education to the nation.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.