South Africa’s top universities dropped several places in the QS World University Rankings as a result of “fee freezes” and “funding shortfalls”.
The rankings were released yesterday amid high drama when the University of Cape Town, which dropped 20 places in the rankings, made representations to the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training, also known as the Fees Commission.
Police escorted UCT vice-chancellor Max Price from the premises after a heated 40-minute standoff with students. Proceedings were suspended as a result.
Students vowed to disrupt upcoming hearings in Gauteng and the Free State.
UCT dropped to 191st in the world for the 2016-2017 period. Wits University dropped 28 places to take 359th position.
Ben Sowter, head of research at QS’s intelligence unit, said this year’s rankings implied “levels of investment determined who progresses and who regresses”.
Institutions are ranked according to, among other things, the quantity and quality of research, as well as the reputation of academics and students.
He said South African universities had experienced funding shortfalls for several years and fee freezes would worsen the situation.
Sowter said it was inappropriate for universities to expect students to pay for the cost of research.
Commission spokesman Musa Ndwandwe said it would focus on “safety and protection of both people and property” at upcoming hearings.
At the start of yesterday’s proceedings four police vans were stationed at the Centre for the Book, where the hearings were held.
Despite this students hurled abuse at Price and took his laptop.
They demanded that all students facing charges and disciplinary action, due to their involvement in the fees protest, be cleared.
Masixole Mlandu, who had been suspended from UCT, said Price and others should not “have the audacity to come and speak in such platforms” when they presided over anti-black and racist systems.
Before the disruptions, UCT and Stellenbosch University told the commission that fee-free universities were not feasible.
“Fee-free higher education for all in the current economic context is neither equitable … nor likely to be affordable given other social priorities and the envisaged lack of meaningful economic growth over the medium term,” Price said.
He added that government alone could not shoulder free education.
UKZN ON EARLY BREAK
Rolling battles between students and police have forced an early September recess at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Millions of rands in damage has been caused by violent student protests at three of the university’s five campuses since last week.
Thirty-eight students have been arrested.
Lesiba Seshoka, the university’s executive director of corporate relations, said the academic programme was suspended to allow all parties space to engage and try to resolve the current impasse. The university will remain closed until September 20.
Source: Times Live