Higher Education: Minister's Budget Speech


29 Jun 2009


Budget Speech of the Hon. Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr BE Nzimande MP

30 June 2009

“Together achieving and expanding quality and access to education and training for all.”

Honourable Speaker
The Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Angie Motshekga
Deputy Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Enver Surty
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Basic Education, the Honourable Fatima Chohan
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Higher Education and Training, the Honourable Marius Fransman
Honourable members
Comrades, friends and fellow citizens

Speaker, our theme this year is “together achieving and expanding quality and access to education and training for all”. Quality education and training properly delivered, changes lives and makes it possible to achieve our vision of a better life for all our citizens.

It is within this context that I wish to acknowledge the presence of my family and in particular my 82 year old mother, uMadlamini, Jamakasijadu, umama ongizalayo, who is in the house today. Ngifisa ukubonga kuwe Zizi ngokuzabalaza kwakho usikhulisa, usifundisa ube ungenalutho.

In tribute to her commitment to my education and tremendous sacrifice in financing my studies through the mashonisas, I commit, in the context of the task I have been given, to strive to ensure that, in line with the ANC Manifesto, no poor but capable young person is excluded from post-school educational opportunities

The past fifteen years have seen some extraordinary changes in education and training. We have managed to achieve one of the millennium development goals of universal participation in primary schooling. We have also significantly changed the face of our universities, where black and women students are now in the majority. We have similarly started the revival of our college sector and introduced a national skills development strategy through the Sector Education and Training Authorities

While we have made significant progress in terms of opening the doors of learning through increased access to previously disadvantaged students into the whole education system, the challenges remain immense, particularly regarding post-school education.
My predecessor established the Ministerial Committee on Post-compulsory and Post-school Provision to investigate and make policy recommendations on providing for a greater diversity of post-school education and training options for South Africa. The report paints a bleak picture of our society.

Many young people do not complete high school, and of those who do, many cannot proceed with their studies because of the poor quality of their achievements, lack of resources or the lack of job opportunities.

The report estimates that of the approximately 2.8 million of 18 to 24 year olds are neither in employment, nor education or training. This implies that over 40% of our youth are not productively engaged. This is a huge wastage of human potential and a squandered opportunity for social and economic development.

Therefore one of our immediate tasks is to create a diverse and differentiated post school system to provide a diverse range of learning opportunities for youth and adults. This system will be realised through, amongst others, the improved alignment of the university, college and SETA systems. 

In this regard, the scope of the new Department of Higher Education and Training will cover all public and private higher education institutions, colleges and the skills development sectors, which include the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and the National Skills Authority and the National Skills Fund.

To this end, the Minister of Labour and I are currently finalising the modalities and necessary legislative instruments to give effect to the decision of Government to transfer skills development from the Department of Labour to the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Working closely with the relevant Ministries, I also intend to establish a coherent college sector which includes the 50 FET colleges and other career specific colleges such as agricultural colleges – the latter being crucial for rural skills development. Similarly, in the coming months, I will be working with my colleague the Minister of Basic Education and the nine provincial MECs to ensure the smooth transfer of the FET colleges from provincial departments to the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Speaker, today we are discussing the consolidated budget of the Department of Education, as no appropriation has been made to the new Department of Higher Education and Training.

In future, the new Department of Higher Education and Training will be responsible for allocations to higher education institutions (estimated at R19.9 b in 2010), Skills Development through the SETAs and the NSF (estimated at R21.9 b in 2010) and FET Colleges (estimated at R3.37 b in 2010).

The current budget of the Department of Education includes the allocation of R17.498 billion to higher education, (incorporating subsidy and earmarked funds for universities of R15.297 billion, an allocation of R2.144 billion to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and R32.661 million to the Council on Higher Education) and R3.2 billion to FET colleges, through the provincial equitable share for education.

With regard to skills development, the SETA landscape is currently under review ahead of the proposed re-establishment of SETAs on 1 April 2010.

In my view, there is a need for an intensive assessment of the SETAs to ensure greater accountability, improved employment of resources, better management of funds and streamlining and alignment of their operations in order that they fulfil their role as a central cog of our skills training and job creation machinery. I will shortly be engaging the SETAs to examine these issues and enhance their capacity to meet the skills needs of South Africa.

The field of adult education and training needs re-invigoration and dedicated focus in the coming period. To this end, my Department will be finalising a draft White Paper towards the end of the year which intends proposing a range of measures to enhance and expand further and higher education and training opportunities for adults. In addition, the Department will be finalising a proposed “matric” equivalent qualification appropriate for adults, through amongst others strengthening policy on recognition of prior learning.

Speaker, given the enormous challenges facing our youth, it is important that we strengthen and expand our colleges and make them institutions of choice. Particular focus will be placed on improving governance and management capacity as well as training of college lecturers and improving the skills of existing cohort of lecturers through universities and industry.

Colleges will continue to provide general and specific vocational education and training, and an important route for artisan training. In this regard, I intend exploring innovative measures that will strengthen the link between colleges, local communities and industries, in particular state owned enterprises. 

It is still our intention to increase the student enrolment at Further Education and Training colleges to at least 1 million by 2015. I also intend improving student articulation between the college and university sectors. To this end, my Department will be finalising a national policy outlining the minimum entry requirements to university study requiring the National Vocational Certificate offered at colleges.

Chairperson, with regard to higher education, we need to consolidate and deepen the transformation gains made over the last fifteen years, while continuously improving the access and success, particularly of black students at all levels of the system.
Of great concern is the low level of participation and success of black students in particular fields of study like accounting, natural sciences, engineering and in research and postgraduate studies. This is particularly important as we must urgently develop the next generation of academics and researchers.

With regard to access,
it is imperative that poor students should not be denied the opportunity to quality higher education. This is a commitment that the ruling party made to the country. It is for this reason that I appointed a Ministerial Committee to review the efficacy of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. The most important task of the committee, which will present its report by the end of the year, is to provide recommendations that would give effect to Government’s commitment to progressively introduce free education for the poor up to undergraduate level.

In addition to access, particular attention will be paid to improving success, throughput rates and the quality of higher education experiences, particularly for black students. This is important as the participation and success rate for Coloured and Africans students is still low relative to White and Indian students. The current enrolment and graduate output plan intends increasing graduates as a percentage of total enrolments to 22% by 2010, especially in scarce and critical skills. The Department is in the process of setting new targets for the period beyond 2011.

To this end, my Department has earmarked R146 million this year for foundation programmes and qualifying institutions have been allocated teaching development grants. R1.462 billion is also earmarked for improving teaching, learning and residence infrastructure and academic efficiency, in this financial year. These funds are primarily directed at historically disadvantaged institutions and towards increasing the capacity of the system to produce graduates in scarce and critical skills such as teachers, engineers, medical doctors and plant and animal health specialists.

The house will be aware that we recently released the report of a Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the elimination of discrimination in higher education. I have already written to chairs of councils to discuss and respond to the report.

We intend to convene a stakeholder summit early next year to discuss a range of issues facing higher education institutions, including the development of a transformation charter for the sector and the establishment of a permanent higher education stakeholder forum.

I anticipate other critical issues will include the matter of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability and the need to strengthen multilingualism at our universities. In this regard, we will explore how indigenous African languages and Afrikaans as an academic language can be strengthened in ways that do not impact negatively on student access, especially in specialised study fields and scarce skills areas.    

Speaker and honourable members, this is an exciting and challenging time in the field of education, training and skills development.
While the challenges are great, my Department and I will put in place a machinery and work tirelessly to unlock the education and training sector to those previously deprived of such prospects and fulfil our mandate to create a better life for all.  

I thank you. 


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