South Africa’s 26 higher education institutions spent R40bn on compensation for employees in the 2018 financial year.
This figure represents 61% of total spending by these institutions, according to Statistics SA’s latest report on the financial statistics of higher education institutions.
The 61% salary spend was far higher than the 14% of total expenditure by the private sector on staff during the same period.
The report said the spending included line items such as salaries and wages, pension benefits, medical aid and bonuses.
Higher education spending has been in the spotlight in recent years, following the implementation by many of these institutions of programmes to absorb staff previously employed by third-party contractors. This included the insourcing of catering, security and cleaning personnel.
The University of South Africa (Unisa) was the biggest spender on staff in 2018, committing just over R5bn on compensation for employees. This represents 13% of the total salary bill for all higher education institutions in the country.
However, this did not necessarily mean that Unisa was the most generous institution when it came to staff spending. The report noted that Unisa was the largest higher education institution in the country, enrolling a third of the nation’s one million students.
The next biggest spenders were:
- the University of Pretoria (R3.3bn);
- the University of Cape Town (R2.9bn);
- the University of the Witwatersrand (R2.5bn);
- Stellenbosch University (R2.5bn); and
- Tshwane University of Technology (R2.4 billion).
Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape was the university that spent the least on salaries, at R100m.
The report said the picture shifted slightly when the salary data was represented as a percentage of total spending by each institution.
Unisa was still on top, having spent 74% on compensation of employees and only 25% on goods and services in 2018. The report said the institution’s cost structure was different from others as it was the only distance-learning institution.