Free higher education in South Africa will not be achievable as society has placed education is in 18th place on the list of national priorities, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said yesterday.
Speaking on the financial statistics of higher education institutions at the department of communications in Hatfield, Pretoria, Lehohla said society had to change its priorities to meet the demand for free higher education.
“Politicians at local government elections corroborated society’s priorities. They never spoke of education. Water, electricity, jobs and service delivery are the things that bother South Africans, not education,” he said.
Referencing the period from January 1 to December 31, 2015, Lehohla said higher education institutions had a total income of R63.1 billion, a R4.9 billion increase from the 2014 financial year. The income increase was largely due to “other receipts”, including tuition fees, that amounted to R21.5 billion in 2015.
“Between the 2014 and 2015 financial years, cash income from ‘other receipts’ increased by R3.4 billion, from R32.8 billion in 2014 to R36.2 billion in 2015. This was mainly due to increases in sales of goods and services and tuition fees by the University of South Africa, the University of Pretoria and the University of Witswatersrand,” Lehohla explained.
Grants received across the 20 universities and six universities of technology last year amounted to R26.9 billion, a R1.5 billion hike from the previous year.
“This can largely be attributed to an increase in transfer payments from the higher education department to University of Witswatersrand, Sol Plaatje University and the inclusion of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in the 2015 financial year.”
Higher education institutions also received a total of R4 billion in donations. On the other hand, universities had to collectively fork out cash payments of R54.1 billion in 2015 for operating activities, mainly being the compensation of employees, which increased by 13.9% to R31.4 billion.
“The increase in expenditure on compensation of employees was mainly due to an increase in remuneration paid to employees by the University of South Africa, North West University and the first-time inclusion of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in the 2015 financial year.”
Lehohla added that universities had a high enrolment of students, as some had failed to complete their degrees in the allocated time, resulting in close to 1 million students registered in universities.