5 May 2017
Dear students and colleagues
I am writing to update you on the work of the Free Education Planning Group and to invite you to join this group and contribute to the discussions and debates around free education ? a topic that has driven nationwide protests over the last two years.
The Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education (Fees Commission), set up by the President in response to student protests calling for free decolonial education, is due to release its findings in mid-June. This long-awaited report consists of submissions from various institutions and will potentially determine the government's policy response to protests.
UCT made its own submission to the Fees Commission representing the view of the executive. We would like to use this opportunity to provide a more inclusive perspective. It is therefore critical that the university has a consolidated response which will feed into the national debate that will inevitably arise out of the Fees Commission's recommendations.
Following the agreement between the executive and the student movement last year, a Free Education Planning Group (consisting of a Research Group and an Engagement Group) driven by students, staff and members of the broader community, was established to research and engage on the context and models for free education. The Research Group has released a summary of the literature and models, a process led by a group of students in consultation with academics and reviewed by over a dozen academics, students and community members. The research also includes qualitative interviews, giving primacy to lived experiences and allowing policy-setting to be a dialogical ground-up process. This material will be available shortly on the UCT website.
The work of the Engagement Group is to foster deeper engagement; an awareness and understanding of the issues at hand, both within and beyond the university community. It is intended that engagement sessions run from the third week of May into mid-June. These sessions will primarily be based on the preliminary research material in order to critically engage and reflect on the sources of funding identified by the research team. From these events, seminars, workshops and faculty assemblies, an institutional position may be formulated to consolidate the university's stance.
This communication also serves as a call to any interested parties to participate and get involved with the work of the working group. We are also calling for two students to join the engagement group in planning the sessions.
Professor Loretta Feris
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation
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