So, in class we were studying this article called "Access to Higher Education". I had to summarize the article, and I have no idea why, but this article confused me because: is the author for higher education being a privilege (not a right) or a right? My teacher explained that the author is saying that it is a right, but I couldn't agree (look at the phrases in bold in the text below), it seemed like the opposite to me. But, perhaps I missed something.

anyway, here's the full article:

Access to Higher Education Nabeela Moola (2015)

With the recent riots causing universities to come to a near standstill in South Africa over a proposed fee hike, there is no question that education is important and people take it seriously. There is a widespread belief amongst many students that the proposed fee increases will make tertiary education inaccessible. However, even as they strongly fight to keep that from happening, many others see things quite differently.

When discussing access to education, one of the main arguments tirelessly and repeatedly brought up is university fees. It is no secret that university fees are gradually increasing, thereby making access to higher education difficult for those wanting to further their education, but being unable to afford it. This is the reason why so many students are outraged over university fees. Students cannot possibly continue to pay these fees, and soon enough there will not be that many students in university.

If access to education is what they are worried about, maybe these protestors should look at other, arguably greater, barriers to tertiary education. These other obstacles begin long before anyone sets foot on a university campus. The fact of the matter is that preparation and information about university while in high school is equally as important as how much a university or college education costs. Furthermore, parents’ educational level and influence often affect students’ decision whether to enroll in university. These are all factors that are not controlled by university fees, but can be cited as barriers to tertiary education.

Universities are also selective by nature. They choose some applicants over others. Usually this choice boils down to academic excellence and the students’ interest in investing in their education. No one has the “right” to be a scholar. However, we do have the right not to be discriminated against by universities because of our race, religion, political beliefs, or gender.

Furthermore, if a student cannot afford these university fees, they can turn to scholarships, bursaries, and loans. The government in South Africa distributes student aid through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), to which many students do not even apply. What we need to do is make potential students more aware of this kind of assistance from a younger age, so more people can enroll in higher education.

On the other hand, students find it difficult to cope with the challenges of higher education as they try to manage classes, a social life, and an adequate amount of sleep. Adding a part-time or even full-time job to this schedule is unimaginable. The fact is financial aid barely covers university and book fees, much less living expenses. Without the support of parents, or a large scholarship, it is nearly impossible to attend university full time and obtain a degree in four years. If higher education was recognized as a right, and university fees were drastically lowered, there would be more youth considering university or college.

The risk of higher education being recognized as a right and university fees drastically lowered is that some students may take advantage of this and not make the best of the opportunity. Students may not take studying as seriously as they would if they were funding their own education. Furthermore, we may risk seeing a decrease in the university pass rate as students may become more neglectful of their studies after having been relieved of the burden of working and paying for their university fees.

Higher education is certainly a privilege; however, for a country that prides itself on equality, it seems unfair that tertiary education favours more affluent and academically inclined students. Everyone should have a chance at an education, regardless of how much money they own.

3 Answers 3


I agree with your interpretation: that the author is saying that it is a privilege.

There are (at least) two ways that one might understand the word "right" in this context: (1) the right of those who are academically eligible to study at university to do so for free, without being charged fees; (2) the right of everyone to study at university, regardless of whether they meet academic criteria for entry.

I wouldn't say that the author's conclusions are particularly clear, but the concluding paragraph clearly states that higher education is a privilege. Also, in case you think the author might be arguing that it is both a privilege and a right, note that even in the passage where they discuss the advantages of reducing fees, they refer to the potential benefits of drastically lowering them, not of abolishing them altogether - and the author doesn't suggest anywhere that there should be no academic criteria for entry, either.


My interpretation is that equal fair access to educational selection processes is a right and actually getting selected to particpate in a merit-based system is a privilege.

Your confusion is certainly understandable though. I think the author did a decent job of trying to be thoughtful and consider many viewpoints of the issue.


You are completely justified in being confused. The article is a mess, it parses as being written by two people taking turns on the paragraphs. Thus, 'no one has the right..' is probably meant to convey 'not anybody can simply attend university, without the qualifications ..' , etc. 'Higher education is certainly a privilege' is probably meant to convey that education is a great thing, something to aspire to; so in this instance, the word 'privilege' is not an antonym to 'right', which is especially unfortunate given that 'privilege vs right' is a discussion that is prevalent.

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