Company helps solve student housing and learning material challenges
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Pretoria - The media has kept us well informed about the systemic challenges in the higher education sector.
We have witnessed the #FeesMustFall protests; we know about the shortfall in funding for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and “missing middle” students, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there is a shortage of decent, safe accommodation for students and the cost of academic textbooks can be prohibitive.
But what is less known, perhaps, are some of the efforts being made to solve these problems, including by a company situated within the campus of the CSIR in Pretoria: TUT Enterprise Holdings.
Created in 2018, it is an entity of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) tasked with generating a strong third stream of income for the university – one aside from government subsidies and student fees.
In a few short years, the entity has developed a number of focal areas which not only generate income but solve real problems faced by South African students, including the administration of student accommodation and access to textbooks online.
Speaking to the National Press Club in Pretoria at its first networking evening of 2021 this week, chief executive Nick Motsatse said the entity, with a revenue forecast for this year in excess of R380 million, had particular relevance at a time where universities had to find ways to augment their income.
The democratisation of education meant university was no longer only available to the elite, but every young person had a real chance for higher education, and universities had to find ways to be financially stable and sustainable, he said.
Tshepo Ditshego’s demonstration of Perlego, an online library of academic resources, impressed the audience of NPC members, while Musa Khosa explained the innovative TRes platform for the management of off-campus accommodation.
Perlego is a subscriber platform offering more than 500 000 academic and non-fiction best-sellers, which can be downloaded and accessed on any smart device.
Ditshego said this could assist students who could not afford to buy textbooks and had the added benefit of access to supporting sources and texts beyond the reading list, with hundreds of topics covered under 24 broad themes from architecture and art to technology and theology.
Perlego not only is a solution for struggling students but is accessible to the general public at R149 a month.
TRes was launched in July last year, as part of a solution to the problem TUT faced each year with queues of students seeking accommodation. Students coming to the city from outside Tshwane were often not being able to tell if what private providers promised would meet their needs.
The program, built in collaboration with TUT’s Faculty of Information Communication Technology, administers the accreditation of private providers of student accommodation as well as leased facilities.
A full list can be accessed online where students can view ratings, distance from any of the nine campuses in Tshwane plus three outside the city, facilities offered, rooms available, and contact details of the provider.
The platform bridges the gap between students and landlords and a chat facility provides students with a voice to raise any concerns they may have, Khosa said.
Motsatse said what was important about these initiatives is they looked at the totality of the student experience as giving students dignity was key to their experience of student life and ultimately their success in their studies.
Other business units of TUTEH include the Tshwane Institute for Continuing Education (TICE), which collaborates with universities, faculties and individual experts to develop and facilitate demand-driven short learning programmes and continuing professional development courses.
Examples range from practical skills such as sewing to postgraduate research skills, communication, sales and marketing and leadership courses. Other TUTEH offerings include advisory and support services and a software solutions hub.
To find out more, go to www.tutenterprise.co.za