Prof. de la Rey spoke of the time she addressed the university Senate a few weeks prior where she referred to a number of international meetings she had attended in 2015. “University leaders from across the world reflected on the increasingly politicised environment of higher education,” she said. Locally, the RhodesMustFall protests paved the way for other student protests, namely the FeesMustFall movement. “What it did was take transformation of higher education institutions under the spotlight, particularly transformation at universities with a history like ours of being historically white,” she explained.
Once students had received news of President Jacob Zuma’s decision that fees for institutions of higher education will not increase in 2016, the government and universities had to gather funds to cover the resulting shortfall. Although the government has given UP funds to contribute towards UP’s shortfall, Prof. de la Rey said “R57 million will be required from [UP’s] personal fund,” as the given funds were inadequate. Besides NSFAS funded students’ problems currently being addressed by the government, Prof. de la Ray spoke on how the “missing middle” students who do not qualify for NSFAS will also be addressed in 2018, with a pilot program being implemented in 2017. “The total debt owed to this university by the missing middle at this time is R97 million,” she said, showing how it is a matter of urgency.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal spoke highly of the UP protesters, whom she described as “peaceful by large”, particularly two students who safeguarded some cornered staff of the British High Commission at the heated FeesMustFall protests at the Union Buildings. She then went on to talk about the insourcing process the university has decided to adopt. “I could not ethically defend that we would pay that level of wage … to people that had served us for many years,” she stressed.
There has been a perception that UP is a well-resourced institution with endless resources; however Prof. de la Rey emphasised that UP “accumulated resources because of careful management since our establishment in 1908.”
Despite the economic challenges the university is facing, Prof. de la Rey acknowledged the steady progress UP is making in relation to its 2025 goal.“Last year we were included in the top two global university ranking systems: Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings,” she said.
Image: Mammetja Mogotane