Free higher education for all was impossible, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.
Government policy made no mention of free higher education, he told student representatives from 26 universities around the country.
This was on the back of thousands of students taking to the streets in the last few weeks, disrupting academic activities while demanding free education.
The event on Thursday, which was also attended by delegates from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS) and professors, was held at the Southern Sun hotel at OR Tambo International Airport.
“You can’t have free higher education for everyone in a capitalist society,” Nzimande said. “That would be saying that as I, as a minister, government must pay for my child… I must pay for it myself because I can afford it.”
Explaining the consequences for this, Nzimande said, “You would be taking money from the poor to subsidise the rich. That is my view”.
He added that current student funding was dedicated to ensuring that students got their first undergraduate qualification, not a B.Tech or further qualifications.
“We are not unaware that you cannot do certain things with a diploma but that is part of this aspect that we need to talk about,” he said.
Nzimande explained that free education was never actually free.
“There is really nothing like free education. Someone is actually paying,” he said.