One of South Africa’s most reputable tertiary institutions, Rhodes University, allegedly has less than two months of funds to cover its expenses – which include dining hall food, electricity and staff salaries.

This is according to a circular sent to students last week. The letter went on to say that the university had “never before been in such a difficult financial position at this time of the year”.

“The University cannot afford to operate without tuition and residence fees. Quite simply, if tuition and residence fees are not paid, and are not paid on time, bills and salaries cannot be paid. There are no reserves to tide the institution over the non-payment of fees,” the letter said.

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Just last week, the university announced that it would withhold examination results of all students who still owed more than 50% of their fees. It however said that students on NSFAS would not be affected by this.

“Government subsidy for higher education alone is not sufficient to allow universities to offer a quality higher education, particularly the kind of education offered by Rhodes University,” the university said.

The DA has said that their research has revealed that government subsidies for South African universities have dropped by 10% since 1994, from 50% to 40%.

“The government appears to be blind to the fact that South Africa’s universities are in serious financial trouble across the board. This comes after years of falling real subsidies from government which have forced universities to rely on increasing student fees,” said the Prof Belinda Bozzoli, DA’s shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, in a press statement.

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“The moratorium on fee increases has put universities under even greater pressure, and the financial support for student debt in this year’s budget has failed to remedy the situation,” Bozzoli added.

She also mentioned that financial difficulties in the higher education sector have had a major impact even on previously advantaged universities, citing the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town as examples of universities who have taken severe measures to cut back on costs.