The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) is the voice of young scientists in South Africa. SAYAS aims to contribute towards solutions to national and global challenges facing society; provide a platform for young scientists to influence policy decisions; contribute towards the development of scientific capacity in South Africa through mentoring and role-modeling of future scientists; and foster opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations amongst young scientists.
SAYAS are acutely aware of the crisis in higher education funding in South Africa and the challenges that this presents to students, staff and workers across our campuses. We wish to voice our support to all efforts aimed at improving the ways in which higher education is financed and managed in South Africa. SAYAS members remain committed to on-going fundraising to support students through bursaries, fellowships and research grants. We are aware that this type of funding is insufficient to deal with the current crisis and call on the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), to urgently address the higher education funding crisis in South Africa through increasing funding available to institutes of higher education and to students. The need for increased spending was highlighted in a 2014 Report to the Ministerial Committee for the Review of the Funding of Universities which recommended significant changes to the University funding system, and in particular an increase in the percentage of GDP spent on R&D and Education.
Higher education is central to the social and economic development of South Africa and equitable access to higher learning is critical in the redress of historical injustice and exclusion. As SAYAS' constitution indicates, everyone has a right to further education (which includes higher education) and the state is required to take reasonable measures progressively to increase its availability and accessibility. As part of this constitutional mandate, SAYAS believe it is crucial for there to be sustained research into developing improved funding models which are developed and implemented with urgency. Given South Africa's position as one of the most consistently unequal countries globally in terms of income, the on-going increases in the tuition costs of higher education impact the poorest students and could further drive inequity in terms of education if not equitably applied. SAYAS calls for research into the development of a revised approach to the financing of higher education that will ensure that the poorest students are not excluded. To this end, SAYAS would like to partner with others to pursue research in this area.