30 October 2015

PAIA request results in release of “free education” report issued to Blade Nzimande in 2012

This past month we heard calls and saw scenes reminiscent of apartheid era protests when students across the country joined the #FeesMustFall Campaign, to protest against planned fee increases for tertiary education. One of the calls of this campaign was for the release of a report, issued in 2012 to Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, by a working group that was appointed to look into the feasibility of free tertiary education for poor South Africans.

Following on media reports about the report last week SAHA’s Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) submitted a freedom of information request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) to the Department of Higher Education and Training for a copy of the report. The department has responded well within the legislated time frame for the provision of a decision, by notifying SAHA this morning (30 October 2015), exactly 7 days after the submission of the request, of its decision to grant the request in full. The department has released the report to SAHA, waiving the usual request and access fees payable in relation to PAIA requests.

The report covers considerations of whether “free education” extends beyond fees, who would constitute the “poor” of South Africa for the purposes of subsidised tertiary education and what possible models there are for the provision of free tertiary education. The report makes 12 recommendations including recommendations calling for:

  • The gradual refinement of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme structure and procedures as a basis for eventual free tertiary education for the poor;
  • The addition, over time, of further categories of “poor” persons entitled to free tertiary education; and
  • The model used in the report to be considered as “the starting point for developing a fully-fledged costing model… for free university education for the poor…”

The report is now available for download from the SAHA PAIA Request Tracker and the FOIP collection on the SAHA website.