Wednesday, 25 November 2015
PII Statement of #FeesMustFall

Statement on the #FeesMustFall campaign from the Poverty and Inequality Initiative

The Poverty and Inequality Initiative at the University of Cape Town expresses its support for students in their quest for more affordable university education.

The PII is an inter-disciplinary initiative that harnesses research and teaching on the causes and effects of poverty and inequality in South Africa. Our research shows that tertiary education has a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of persistent inequality in South Africa. Historically it has been central to perpetuating South Africa’s inequality. Even recognizing this deep-rooted legacy, we have made dangerously little progress in turning around this situation since the end of apartheid.

We will undertake further research on the situation of poorer students at UCT and on South Africa’s campuses in order to find ways to better support disadvantaged students at the tertiary level. This research is one part of our active commitment to a just and equitable society.

With regard to the issue of student fees, a number of us have suggested expressing our solidarity with students by making financial contributions to student financial aid, perhaps through salary sacrifice. As a contribution to such thinking we will work to make the university budget and financial aid model understandable and to provide fora in which these financial processes can be explained and interrogated. Aside from building common understanding this will clarify the most impactful options facing those who want to contribute in this way.

It is critical that university budgets are transparent and that a funding model is found that makes UCT and our universities sustainable, excellent, and accessible to students from all walks of life.

We affirm strongly that the national funding milieu for universities is integral to such discussions. It is urgent that research and evidence is brought to bear on this milieu and our national higher education policies. There is a need to evaluate whether these funding models and policies have effectively served the poor. We will consolidate existing research and conduct new research on this issue.

In this statement we signal our commitment to playing our part in these processes that are broader than, but include student fees; and in building UCT’s role in promoting social transformation and social mobility. We are only one stakeholder group and there are no sustainable solutions without the participation from all relevant stakeholders in each campus engagement or each national engagement. The PII believes that the use of force by the police against students has been profoundly counter-productive. For any solution to be acceptable to all there has to be a foundation of common cause and mutual trust. The use of force, and the arrests of students, has dangerously undermined both of these.

Murray Leibbrandt

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Poverty and Inequality

Download the full statement here.