Funding to link to college success
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Durban - Future government funding for public training colleges may become linked to the number of students who complete their studies, and whether graduates ultimately succeed in the job market.
The national benchmark at which technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges are funded allows the Higher Education Department to expand enrolment at colleges that operate efficiently, and decrease enrolment at those that do not.
The planned funding system includes a performance incentive (or output bonus) which colleges may put toward revamping their facilities. The incentive would need a credible measurement of a college’s performance - in terms of the student throughput rate, and where graduates end up.
Although the link between government spending and quality of education in public training colleges was written into policy in 2009, it had never been implemented, the department said on Sunday.
Until this year, when a new version of the funding document was published in the Government Gazette, implementing the carrot-and-stick approach had been the responsibility of provincial education departments.
But the funding norms published last month officially transfer that task to the Higher Education Department.
Responding to queries this week, the department could not provide an exact date for implementation, as this was dependent on budgetary considerations.
The department’s director for financial planning for vocational and continuing education and training, Dorothy Masipa, said that before implementation, the carrot-and-stick funding model would need to be considered by the ministerial committee reviewing training colleges and adult learning centres.
Much hinges on the training college sector, with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande pushing for a shift toward training that aggressively tackles South Africa’s skills and unemployment problems.
The funding policy document notes how small the South African training college sector is, with only 2% of the country’s 15-to-19-year-olds enrolled. Nzimande wants the number of training college students to outnumber those enrolled at universities.
Enrolment at training colleges has doubled over the past five years, and the target for this year is 725 000 students.
But the sector continues to battle image problems because of perceived inferior standards, mismanagement and corruption.
In 2012, an audit of 50 training colleges by the Human Sciences Research Council revealed that the sector was in “disarray”.
The council found that the sector’s flagship programme - the National Certificate Vocational - had a national average throughput rate of only 30%, and that only 18 of the 50 colleges kept track of what became of their students after they left.
College campuses in KwaZulu-Natal have recently suffered a spate of student protests over the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).
In many instances there has been too little money to pay for students’ fees, plus accommodation and transport.
Following violent student protests at the Richards Bay campus of the Umfolozi college last week, the college claimed that Nsfas had not disbursed this year’s fees yet. But according to the scheme it had transferred an “upfront payment” to the college of R12 228 039, which was equal to 20% of its total Nsfas funds for this year.
A spokesman for the scheme, Kagisho Mamabolo, said payments to institutions were made in tranches, and that the transfer of the second tranche of payments was made at the end of last month.