University of Cape Town: Planned 8 Percent Fee Increase

UCT protests continue as university discloses proposed fee hike.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has disclosed that the institution is proposing an 8 percent fee increase for the 2018 academic year.

The announcement came as a group of roughly 200 people, believed to students, attempted to disrupt academic activity at the university on Thursday morning.

Western Cape police used stun grenades to disperse protesters, and arrested one protester who tried to damage the university's shuttle service.

Speaking to the media at the university's Bremner building, UCT Vice-Chancellor Max Price said it would be "devastating for the university" if fees are not increased.

Aside from an 8 percent fee increase, the university is also proposing a 10 percent residence fee increase.

"The university has engaged with the national government to see whether the increase can be covered by the state," Price said.

"We need to especially protect our laboratories, where chemicals can be dangerous for staff and students if intruded [upon]."

He condemned the actions of students, who earlier in the morning had dumped faeces in one of the university's computer science buildings.

Price said the excrement has since been cleared.

"There's no reason for students to disrupt the university's academic activity," he said.

In reply to a question from News24, Price said the university has spent R24-million on private security for the 2017 academic year.

Price said the cost of private security has been partially covered by the university's insurance company.

"We need to especially protect our laboratories, where chemicals can be dangerous for staff and students if intruded [upon]," he added.

At a meeting in October, the UCT student representative council (SRC), led at the time by the Economic Freedom Fighters Youth Command, demanded that the university propose a 0 percent fee increase, to be announced at an emergency council sitting.

The SRC also called on the university to call on President Jacob Zuma to release the Fees Commission report, which the university subsequently did.

The term of that SRC has since ended.

A leaked copy of the Fees Commission report, obtained by City Press, revealed that the country cannot afford free higher education at this stage.

On Sunday, the Presidency said discussions are underway with the relevant ministers regarding the content of the report.

The discussions should be concluded by the end of the week, and the report would be released thereafter, according to the Presidency.

At the briefing on Thursday, Price also said that university staff received R48-million in bonuses for the 2015/16 academic year, and the university's executive team, which includes deans, the vice chancellor and his deputies, received R2.8-million worth of bonuses.

Price said the institution's remuneration committee did not believe that staff should be penalised for the country's poor economic circumstances.

He said private security and police would remain on campus, and an interdict obtained against unlawful protests would remain in force, to ensure that the university concludes its academic year.

UCT exams are set to start next week.

"We remain open to talking to students, as we have done until midnight last night," Price said.

"Some of the demands, such as releasing the Fees Commission report, is, however, out of our control."