R16. 3 billion has been allocated to higher education according to the budget speech by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Tanisha Heiberg

Photo: Stock Images

Photo: Stock Images

Almost three million—that’s how many degrees could be paid for with the R8-billion Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced will be spent for current university students over the next three years in his budget speech.

Wits Vuvuzela calculated that three million degrees could be paid for taking into account accommodation including catering at a residence set at R61 126 per year and a a BA degree costing R33 640 per annum over three years at Wits University, without taking annual increases into account.

A total of R16.3-billion has been allocated to higher education, with R8-billion of that being used to enable current students to complete their studies, according to the budget speech earlier this week.

This will be allocated over the next three years with R5.7-billion set aside to address the shortfall created by keeping fees for 2016 at the same levels as 2015.

This comes after #FeesMustFall protests spread across the country last year demanding a 0% fees increase and a commitment to education.

A further R2.5-billion of the allocated R16.3-billion allocated to higher education, will go towards the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to clear outstanding debt.

The R16-billion for higher education will come from reprioritising R31.8-billion from expenditure plans from the medium term budget policy statement in 2015.

Gordhan highlighted additional spending on higher education as one of the key spending priorities along with small business development and responding to the drought crisis.

“This is a better outcome for higher education than I expected and will go some small way towards offsetting the financial strains facing the university sector,” said Wits Associate Professor in Political Studies Daryl Glaser.

Despite this Gordhan failed to roll out any detailed plans towards making education free for university students.

Wits Vuvuzela approached to the SRC for comment but did not receive a response as of press time.

Higher education wasn’t the only portfolio to receive an increase in planned expenditure. Basic education and early childhood development will increase by R50 billion to R254 billion in 2018/19. Schools that are unsafe will also be rebuilt as well as 1 120 schools without water and 916 without electricity will be supplied.