Tertiary system 'constipated' with too many students

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande

Published Oct 25, 2016


SOUTH AFRICA’s statistician-general, Pali Lehohla, says while the number of students at tertiary institutions has increased at first-year level, the tertiary education system remained inefficient and 

He was presenting Statistics SA’s findings on fees at institutions of higher learning.

Lehohla said in terms of investments in tertiary institutions, no more than 500 000 
students could be accommodated, but 985 212 students were enrolled at South Africa’s 26 universities.

“The truth of the matter is that we have (close to) a million students, so we’re spending money on students who do not succeed, who do not finish. That is what’s making this system more expensive,” said Lehohla.

According to the statistics, North-West University had seen the greatest growth in student numbers (66 percent) between 2006 and 2015.

On average, growth in tertiary student numbers for South Africa stood at 32.8 percent for the same period.

“We have 300 000 people in the (higher education) system who should not be there, who are not succeeding to finish.

"There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that they don’t have the money to take them through their studies and therefore they can’t go through,” said Lehohla.

In 2015, tertiary education institutions received R21.5 billion in the form of tuition fees, while on average this contributed only 34.1 percent of their income.

For 2015 tertiary institutions received R26.8bn in total grant funding, with Wits University being the largest beneficiary at R2.2bn.

While grants from national government to universities have shown a steady increase, they remained stagnant for universities of technology.

Statistics SA also showed that Stellenbosch University was the biggest beneficiary of private donations in 2015, receiving R1.1bn, with the University of Cape Town receiving less than half of that at 
R449 million, the University of the Western Cape receiving a paltry R5m, and less than R133m for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Lehohla said 92 percent of university graduates got jobs and they could finance tertiary education through an “education levy”, adding that the notion of free education had to be dispensed with.

In the National Assembly, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu was in agreement with Lehohla that an “education levy” could be used to fund fee-free 
higher education, which will form part of pension fund 

“Delayed salaries of workers in the public sector and the private sector amounts to about R4 trillion. If you take 2.5 percent of that annually, it will give you a R100bn, and that is going to save the people – the pensioners, the teachers, the nurses, the doctors – because that money is currently
being managed by the Public Investment Corporation,” said Shivambu.

And instead of utilising government pensions to buy equity stakes in the private sector, the estimated R100bn could be used to support fee-free tertiary education.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had in the current financial year disbursed R49.2bn.

“This year alone, NSFAS has disbursed loans and bursaries of R14bn,” said Nzimande.

“This will benefit more than 75 percent of university and college students.”

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