08February

The higher education fees tsunami

 

By Khairoonisa Foflonker, Inyathelo Programme Co-ordinator

This article was originally published in the 2016 Inyathelo Annual Report.

Inyathelo’s role has been to provide higher education institutions and civil society organisations with training and technical support in order to strengthen their financial sustainability. 

The higher education fees tsunami

Inyathelo has always advocated that universities position themselves for investment by building strategic relationships, diversifying their funding streams, growing endowments and decreasing their reliance on state funding.

We believe institutional Advancement is part of a sustainable solution to the complex circumstances universities now find themselves in. The systematic and integrated approach to building and managing relationships with key constituencies in order to attract financial, as well as stakeholder support, will go a long way to assist with transformation initiatives.

The year 2015 ushered in the revival of student movements related to fees-free education, decolonisation and support for insourcing workers within the South African higher education arena. Several fallist movements ensued, resulting in a landslide shift in perspectives in the Higher Education funding landscape. Consequently, most South African universities have responded by launching fundraising campaigns aimed at the ‘missing middle’, in addition to campaigns focused on providing financial support to indigent students striving to gain access to higher education.

The ‘missing middle’ are students whose families earn above the R122 000 per annum qualifi cation threshold used in the NSFAS means test. This exclusion has caused great unrest and has been condemned by institutions, financial aid offi ces and students. The ‘missing middle’ represents a large portion of students at both public and private institutions across the country; and includes the children of civil servants and lower middle-class families, who, while being disqualifi ed from NSFAS, are unable to raise the funds from commercial banks because the risk of default is too high.

Inyathelo’s role has been to provide higher education institutions and civil society organisations with training and technical support in order to strengthen their financial sustainability. Inyathelo has always advocated that universities position themselves for investment by building strategic relationships, diversifying their funding streams, growing endowments and decreasing their reliance on state funding.

We believe institutional Advancement is part of a sustainable solution to the complex circumstances universities now find themselves in. The systematic and integrated approach to building and managing relationships with key constituencies in order to attract fi nancial, as well as stakeholder support, will go a long way to assist with transformation initiatives. Inyathelo has three programmes funded by the Kresge Foundation that focus directly on building and sustaining the institutional Advancement capacity of higher education institutions in South Africa.


The Leaders Universities Initiative (LU) 
Inyathelo has worked in partnership with the US-based Kresge Foundation for more than a decade to help develop and bolster the private fundraising and Advancement efforts of universities in South Africa.

The first Kresge Special Initiative was implemented between 2006 and 2010, and helped five high profile South African institutions – namely the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Children’s Hospital Trust – to increase their private fundraising revenue threefold.

The four universities then joined the Leader Universities Initiative which will see them receive an additional $250,000 between 2012 and 2016 to continue developing and enhancing their Advancement operations. They will also act as mentors to a new group of universities which are part of the second KresgeInyathelo Advancement Initiative.

The Kresge-Inyathelo Advancement Initiative (KIAI) 
The new cohort of Kresge grantees includes Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg and the University of the Free State. This initiative also aims to strengthen the Advancement operations in South African universities and will run until 2018.

As part of the KIAI, Inyathelo responds to the institutional Advancement challenges faced by higher education leadership by hosting the annual Vice Chancellors’ Leadership Retreat. The Retreat planned for end-October 2015 clashed with the nation-wide #FeesMustFall protests and was rescheduled to April 2016. There the nature of the changing funding landscape, and the type of leadership needed to address these challenges, was debated in the context of the wave of fallist movements.

The Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education (ASPIHE) 
The Advancement industry in South Africa’s higher education sector is expanding, but precious little information is available about the state of philanthropic support. With this in mind, the ASPIHE is intended to introduce a robust mechanism for collecting reliable and consistent information about philanthropic support and to prompt similarly comprehensive work on other forms of third-stream income in the HE sector.

The current annual ASPIHE report presents the findings of 11 participating HEIs in South Africa. To date two reports have been completed as part of what we hope will become a regular annual series with an increasing number of participating institutions. The survey was conducted by EduActive Solutions Ltd on behalf of Inyathelo with financial support from the Kresge Foundation. It is available as a free download on the Inyathelo website.

One of the key findings of the 2015 ASPIHE report (which showcases the analysis of 2014 data) is that a direct relationship is evident between levels of expenditure on fundraising and alumni relations and levels of donor income. In other words, the higher an institution’s expenditure on generating philanthropic income, the higher the income received. Feedback from several universities indicates that participation in the fi rst round of the survey has encouraged several institutions to improve their Advancement data management. In fact, some have used the survey guidelines in formulating university policies for philanthropic funding.

Inyathelo continues to play a key role in providing both HEIs with cutting edge resources, bespoke training, coaching and spaces to refl ect and debate resource mobilisation for, and the sustainability of, South African universities. In future we will extend our collaborations and bring in additional partners to brainstorm and unpack the challenges faced by higher education leadership, as the current climate requires a multi-faceted approach to ensuring sustainability of the HE sector in South Africa.