Students protest over planned increases in tuition. Picture: REUTERS
Students protest over planned increases in tuition. Picture: REUTERS

THE fees commission chairman, Judge Jonathan Heher, urged university students on Wednesday to put their trust in the commission as it continues its work on the feasibility of free higher education.

He was speaking at a briefing in Pretoria amid student protests around the country after Monday’s announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande that it was for universities to decide on fee increases for 2017, but they could not exceed 8%.

President Jacob Zuma set up the fees commission after last year’s #FeesMustFall protests, but students have not been participating in its public hearings.

Their argument was that the commission should be trying for an immediate solution to the fees crisis, not considering whether free education is feasible.

"We would welcome the participation of students in a constructive manner," said Judge Heher. "Thus far we have found constructive assistance lacking because of the obvious desire to obtain an immediate fix for the problem.

" I hope the students will come to realise that for a long-term answer they will have to put some trust in us, and we are attempting in their best interests to achieve a solution."

Nzimande said on Monday that while universities were free to determine their own fee increases for 2017 the government would subsidise the fee increase for beneficiaries of the National Financial Aid Scheme and "missing middle students" from households with incomes of R600,000 a year.

The commission continues with public hearings next week. Its findings will not be known before next year.