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The changing face of public funding of higher education, with special reference to South Africa


  • Pierre de Villiers

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Gert Steyn

    () (Institutional Planning Division, University of Stellenbosch)


Higher education displays characteristics of both private and public goods and there is a trend worldwide to expect individuals to pay more of the costs of their higher education. In South Africa public funding of higher education decreased from 0.86% of GDP in 1986 to only 0.66% in 2006. Due to the decrease in state appropriations, student tuition fees had to be increased to compensate for this loss of income. In the process staff numbers were kept relatively constant, while student numbers increased at a much faster rate. Two future scenarios, based on public higher education expenditure as a percentage of GDP and on real state allocation per WFTES, are included. Although the qualifications awarded per FTE academic staff member increased over time, the graduation rates of the higher education institutions in South Africa are worsening. High-level research, measured in publication units per FTE academic staff member, shows a disturbing decreasing trend since 1997.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre de Villiers & Gert Steyn, 2007. "The changing face of public funding of higher education, with special reference to South Africa," Working Papers 05/2007, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers36

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ronelle Burger & Christelle Swanepoel, 2006. "Have pro-poor health policies improved the targeting of spending and the effective delivery of health care in South Africa?," Working Papers 12/2006, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Magnus Lindelow, 2005. "The Utilisation of Curative Healthcare in Mozambique: Does Income Matter?," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 14(3), pages 435-482, September.
    3. Mills, Anne & Palmer, Natasha & Gilson, Lucy & McIntyre, Di & Schneider, Helen & Sinanovic, Edina & Wadee, Haroon, 2004. "The performance of different models of primary care provision in Southern Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(5), pages 931-943, September.
    4. David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger, 2000. "Expenditure incidence in Africa: microeconomic evidence," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(3), pages 329-347, September.
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    More about this item


    Higher education; education financing; qualifications;

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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