“I will be really nasty where there is corruption because I hate dishonesty and absence of integrity with public funds in particular.
"We will come down very hard where there is abuse of public resources,” Pandor said.
She made the comments when she appeared before Parliament's higher education and training portfolio committee in Cape Town this week.
Her comments come just days after reports surfaced that the Special Investigations Unit is investigating R3million spent on student bashes by the Tshwane South Technical Vocational Education and Training College.
Pandor was brought to the department to replace former minister Hlengiwe Mkhize when President Cyril Ramaphosa shuffled the cabinet he inherited from his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
She said her department would continue to provide support to technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, providing financial administration and staff as well.
Pandor also said they would ensure there was appropriate management capacity in the department to steer tertiary institutions to work most efficiently.
“We will have to look at how we balance the need for increased autonomy and the ability to execute within the institution and the department.”
Pandor said the department had changed from what it was from 2004 and 2009, when it included the Basic Education Department.
“I’m on a listening campaign and on reflection will determine where we must put our finger on the pulse.”
MPs told her about some of the challenges facing the tertiary education sector, including free higher education. They highlighted the onerous responsibility of ensuring the additional funds for students were spent for the intended purpose and that there was a value for money from the initial spending.
There was also concern about long-term sustainability of student funding and the struggling universities as well as fears that there could be a funding crisis should qualifying students take advantage of free higher education in the coming years.
Concerns were also raised about the National Student Financial Scheme (NSFAS), which was allegedly used as a cash cow by TVET colleges since it provided guaranteed income.
Pandor said the country had been unfair to the NFSAS, which had been given a bigger mandate without statutory powers.
She also said funding of poor students should not be entirely a public revenue responsibility.
“The government needs to look at what forms of partnerships it could establish with a range of partners, including international partners.”
Pandor also said there would also be a focus on TVET colleges as well as community colleges to produce skills needed in the economy.