Here’s how much South African universities are getting from the state per student, from R79,000 at Rhodes to R37,000 at Walter Sisulu

Business Insider SA
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  • The 2019 Allocations Act has been published, and with it the transfers and subsidies that will go to each of South Africa's 26 universities and universities of technology.
  • The institutions will share R36.7 billion in direct subsidies and block allocations, divided using a complex set of formulas.
  • We broke down the allocations per student, and found a huge range, with some institutions claiming double the funding of others.
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South African universities will receive subsidies ranging from R647,000 per student to R21,000 per student from the national purse this year.

That huge range includes startup and specialist institutions, which receive much higher per-head funding, at the top end, and the gigantic distance-learning University of South Africa (Unisa) at the bottom end.

But even excluding those unusual higher-education bodies, universities will receive starkly different levels of support from the government, ranging from nearly R80,000 per student for Rhodes University to just about R37,000 per person at Walter Sisulu University.

See also: For-profit school group Curro expects to spend R1 billion on infrastructure this year – 17 times more per pupil than the public system

The actual subsidies to be transferred to each higher education institution are detailed in the 2019 Appropriations Act, a rands-and-cents breakdown of how the National Revenue Fund is divided, published this week.

Business Insider South Africa ranked those payments by the average payment per full-time equivalent student, a calculation that attempts to provide a comparable number between institutions that may provide either distance or contact education, or a mixture of the two, in a sector where undergraduate students require less intensive tuition than post-grads.

The results show that the University of Mpumalanga in Mbombela, with around 1,600 full-time equivalent students, will receive not much under R650,000 per student. Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley, with a slightly smaller student body, will claim around R620,000 per head.

Both institutions were opened in 2014, and are being heavily subsidised in their creation of infrastructure and operations.

The Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University north of Pretoria ranks third in per-head subsidy, at some R144,000 per student. The institution was technically created in 2015, when what had been the Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa) was separated from the University of Limpopo, with which it was merged in 2005. The institution reportedly no longer expects to complete the academic year due to ongoing protests on campus.

At the bottom of the rankings, Unisa claims slightly under R21,000 for each of its more than 200,000 full-time equivalent students. Unisa is a distance-education and research institution that works at huge scale with little of the infrastructure its fellow universities require to serve large numbers of on-campus students.

Excluding those unusual institutions, South Africa's remaining public higher-education institutions can be broken down into four bands, based on their allocation per head:

  • R72,000 to R80,000: Rhodes University, the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, and the University of the Witwatersrand.
  • R60,000 to R67,000: University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria, Vaal University of Technology, University of Fort Hare, University of the Western Cape, University of Johannesburg.
  • R52,000 to R58,000: University of Venda, Nelson Mandela University, University of Limpopo, Durban University of Technology, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology.
  • R37,000 to R48,000: Central University of Technology, University of the Free State, North West University, University of Zululand, Walter Sisulu University.

Here are the allocations from the National Revenue Fund to each of South Africa's 26 universities and universities of technology, ranked by the allocation per full-time equivalent student.

University allocations ranked per FTE student

Allocations include student housing infrastructure grants but not academic clinical training grants. For Sol Plaatje and the University of Mpumalanga allocations include R304 million and R666 million respectively for infrastructure.

*Full-time equivalent (FTE) students are calculated by assigning different weightings to different levels of study and whether education is by contact or distance. These numbers are drawn from the higher education department's report "Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa: 2017". The 2017 numbers are used in calculating 2019 allocations.

See also: Wits is a world leader in attracting money from businesses, according to a top global university survey – but UCT is the best SA university overall

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