Department of Higher Education and Training Annual Performance Plan 2012

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

09 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms M Makgate (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented its Annual Performance Plan for 2012/2013. The five key programmes of the DHET were outlined, and the targets were compared with the performance in the previous financial year. Specific objectives in respect of each programme were also mentioned. In general, DHET had to ensure that the skills needed to drive economic growth within South Africa were delivered by the education sector, whilst, for students, it must ensure that there were different entry-points and pathways to the learning system, and ensure quality throughout. The DHET had to expand access for the youth, increase the number of students who were able to successfully enter the labour market when they had completed their studies and ensure that higher education institutions responded to market needs. The institutions had to be properly capacitated and managed, and the research outputs increased and academics properly supported and nurtured. It was vital to ensure that the institutions, as well as DHET itself, offered a professional and efficient administration informed by good corporate governance and work ethics.

Particular highlights were a focus on filling scarce skills and senior posts, with a view to dropping the vacancy rate down to 15% and reducing the reliance on consultants, although it was noted that consultants were also expected to internal staff. The fraud and anti-corruption policy and development of a whistle-blowing system were focus areas. There was collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council, under Programme 2, to integrate public institutional data into an education and training management information system. DHET hoped to reach 2.7 million people for career guidance by radio, 25 000 by exhibitions, 12 000 on the helpline and 70 000 on the web portal. A new academic journal was to be published to deal with matters of interest applicable to higher education and training, and would coordinate current existing information gaps. International cooperation was also to be enhanced, and new guidelines for full and proper implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) were to be drawn. DHET hope to increase total enrolment to 17.9% of youth between 20 and 24, and was establishing new universities in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. Support was also to be increased to university students, with particular focus on African and women students, as well as higher targets for graduates, and graduates in scarce skills. In the Further Education and Training Colleges, it was hoped to increase the numbers of learners, the numbers of colleges collaborating with universities and training of personnel and better governance in these institutions. The targets for training artisans had increased, and there were agreements with business to support students and colleges.

Members noted that the enrolment boom would need to be matched with corresponding increases in resources and asked how this was to be done, asked if health and safety of students was part of the support system, what was done to address HIV and Aids and why funding was shifted from this programme to recruitment in the last year. They were assured that this was a one-off with the approval of National Treasury and that there were specific targeted programmes in place. Members asked for more details on assistance to artisans and FET students in getting work placements, asked if the Central Application Services would be attended to in 2012, noted that more details on the new universities would be given later in the year, and wondered if they should offer courses that answered the needs of the provinces where they were established. Members asked about the filling of posts, reduction in use of consultants, the steps to improve governance and which institutions would be assisted with infrastructure.

Meeting report

Department of Higher Education and Training: Annual Performance Plan and Budget 2012
Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training, outlined the mandate and strategic objectives of the Department (DHET). He noted that the work of the Department was divided broadly across programmes that dealt with Administration, Human Resource Development, Planning and Monitoring Coordination, University Education, Vocational and Continuing Education and Training and Skills Development. The DHET had a challenge of not having credible data-sets on skills, and a project had been initiated with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) regarding skills intelligence.

Mr Qonde highlighted that the DHET had to ensure that the skills needed to drive economic growth within South Africa were delivered, and also that the availability of quality skills would enhance investment and service delivery. On the supply side, there was a need to serve a growing number of young people and adults and to ensure that there were different entry points and pathways to the learning system, as well as ensuring that quality learning would take place across all different learning sites.

Mr Qonde then summarised the seven strategic objectives of the Department (see attached presentation for further details). These included:
- Expanding access to education and training for the youth,
- Ensuring adequately capacitated institutions,
- Increasing the number of students successfully entering the labour market on completion of their training,
- Expanding research, development and innovation capacity for economic growth and social development,
- Ensuring that higher education Colleges (FETs), situated in strategic locations, were responsive to the demands of the market place, and the regional and national skills need
- Ensuring credible institutional mechanisms for skills planning, to support an inclusive economic growth path,
- Making sure that the DHET itself offered a highly effective, professional, efficient administration, informed by good corporate governance practices, and infused with good work ethics.

Ms Lulama Mbobo, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, DHET, described Programme 1, which was to provide for overall management and administration of the DHET. As at September 2011, there was an approved establishment of 1067 posts, 795 of which were funded. Of these, 900 were filled, and a further 105 posts were established for interns. As additional funds were made available to the DHET, more posts would be filled, and the vacancy rate of 26.67% should drop to 15%. The ratio of support staff to line staff was currently 1:4, but DHET aimed to decrease this. The ratio of consultants to total DHET staff was 1:90 for 2011/2012. She highlighted that consultants were employed where there was no internal expertise within the DHET.

Ms Mbobo then highlighted the targets for the next financial year. DHET aimed to reduce the time taken to fill a vacancy from six months to four months. It would implement the fraud and anti-corruption policy and develop a whistle-blowing system, aimed for full compliance with the performance management, supply chain management and logistical policy frameworks. It hoped to raise ICT governance maturity from a level of 0 to a level of 1, and reduce the days to resolve disciplinary cases from its current average of 120 days, down to 90 days. Further targets were set out for raising compliance with occupational health and safety, loss of assets, website maintenance and communication, and the aim to move from paper-based to IT systems.

Mr Faizel Toefy, Chief Director: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, DHET, said that Programme 2, focusing on Human Resources, was the programme under which the HSRC collaboration on data would be run. It was intended that 80% of public institutional data would be integrated into the education and training management information system. A tender had been awarded for the first phase, and two modules would be added during  2012/2013, so that a coherent career management and information system would be established and maintained. DHET targeted reaching 2.7 million people for career guidance by radio, and reaching out to 25 000 by exhibitions, 12 000 on the helpline and 70 000 on the web portal. A new academic journal was to be published in 2012/2013, which would deal with matters of interest applicable to higher education and training, and would coordinate current existing information gaps. Other new initiatives included the development and approval of an international relations operational framework strategy, the development of plans with priority countries and multilateral agencies, a publication on international cooperation, and maintenance of a database of international engagements of all public post-school institutions. Mr Toefy noted that all litigation against the DHET had been dealt with. A policy document on social inclusion, equity and transformation services within the DHET and its entities was to be prepared in 2012 and implemented in 2013. The Minister also intended to issue guidelines to ensure the full and proper implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Ms Diane Parker, Acting Deputy Director General: Higher Education, DHET, outlined the objectives for Programme 3. DHET wanted to increase total enrolment of those between 20 and 24 years of age, to 17.9%, or about 910 000 students in higher education programmes. It was hoped to increase first-time enrolments for the 2011 figure of 175 000 students, to 179 000 students. DHET was working to establish new universities in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. Part of the expansion targets were also to do with provision of support to university students. The target for the number of students in foundation provisioning programmes would be increased from 14 100 in 2011/2012 to 14 600 in 2012/2013. Equity of access was a vital component, and so the targets for numbers of African students and female student were also increased. There was a need for better monitoring of funds put into the system, including those for teacher development, to ensure that institutions used these to improve the success of the students.

Ms Parker clarified that there were also targets for numbers of graduates produced, and this target, for 2012/2013, was 167 807 graduates, an increase from 159 000 graduates in the previous year. DHET also targeted an increase in scarce skills, particularly engineering, human health and animal health, natural and physical sciences, and teaching. It was hoping to increase the number of institutions that were well-governed, and would be holding workshops. It also wanted to increase research capacity, and increase numbers of post-graduate students. Its research output policy was aimed at increasing research at all universities, as well as developing academics and teachers, and retaining and supporting its current academics. Another expansion projects would be opening new campuses for teacher education.

Mr Bheki Mahlobo, Acting Director General: Vocational and Continuing Education and Training, DHET, outlined Programme 4’s objectives for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (VCET). It was hoped to increase the numbers of learners enrolled in adult education and training from 233 000 to 255 000, and increasing the headcount enrolment in Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs) from 350 000 to 550 000. The DHET also envisaged increasing the number of FETs collaborating with universities from six to eight, and noted that they would offer NQF Level 5 and 6 programmes. Targets were also set for completion of programmes and it was hoped to achieve increases in mathematics and maths literacy. DHET would focus on increasing the number of bursary recipients who complete their qualification, as part of its value-for-money exercises. It would train personnel in vocational education and financial management, and attempt to increase governance in the FET institutions. There were also interventions to support lecturers, which included development and continuous professional development. There must also be student support and guidance, and preparations for work placement. DHET finally hoped to increase the number of FET campuses.

Mr Clive Mtisha, Acting Deputy Director General: Skills Development, DHET, presented on Programme 5. He highlighted the Skills Accord Document relating to artisans, said that the target in relation to the number of artisans trained had been exceeded in the previous year, and would be reviewed, hoping to reach the benchmark of 12 000 artisans per year. The number of graduates engaged in work-integrated learning would increase from the 2011 figures of 3 400 to 8 500 in 2012/2013. He noted that there were challenges in learners being unable to find work placement to complete their qualifications (such as engineers).  The National Skills Fund (NSF) would also assist in supporting projects of national priority across the country, with a target of R2.3 billion, compared to R2.2 billion in the 2011 financial year. A further R1.5 billion had also been set aside for workshops that would target approximately 23 000 youngsters. There was a need to monitor the National Skills Development, and the DHET would be insisting on quarterly reports in order to enable it to do so.

Mr Qonde then outlined the risks that had been identified for the DHET, and how it intended to mitigate them. He firstly highlighted that there was a need to ensure good corporate governance, as stipulated in the King III Report, and said that this was being attended to by the Internal Audit Committee within the DHET. DHET had examined its risks and was focusing on good governance as it had identified that its capacity to deliver on the mandate would be weakened significantly if the institution was not managed properly. He noted that DHET had had to place some institutions under administration.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer, DHET, tabled and presented the budget and highlighted the increases on some of the line items (see slides 23 and 24). He noted that the figures set out in slide 26 were the additional allocations received, whilst the long-term infrastructure and other capital plans were set out on slide 28.

Ms R Rasmeni (ANC, North West) noted that some colleges experienced an enrolment boom, and this would have to be matched with resources, so she wondered if the colleges were ready to cope with the growth of numbers. The Committee had already observed, during its oversight visits, that there were many students but few classrooms.

Mr Qonde replied that the boom in FET college enrolment was the result of a deliberate decision, campaign and message from DHET and government, and the view was that many institutions already had capacity, and must go ahead and grow, whilst those without would be given assistance to do so.

Ms Rasmeni wondered if the comment on occupational health and safety referred to overall wellbeing and health of students at the education institutions, or to the health of the DHET staff. She asked if there were any specific plans to address the challenge of HIV and Aids.

Mr Qonde replied that the DHET was looking at strengthening student support systems, particularly through tutoring, mentoring, and orientation. Programmes had been put in place and these now needed to be developed further.

Ms Rasmeni requested clarification as to how much assistance would be given to graduates in engineering, and artisans, in identifying possible work placement opportunities.

Mr Qonde replied that the DHET realised the importance of placements, and so a post and structure had been created within the DHET to deal with this issue. DHET was presently conducting interviews to fill the post. He emphasised that the DHET saw this as a priority area, wanted to facilitate engagement with stakeholders, and had already engaged with the private sector and labour. Skills accords had been signed and businesses had indicated their commitment to opening up places for graduates from FET colleges and technikons, or to “adopt” a college and increase the college-industry interaction. Mr Qonde added that Government had also opened up the public service as a training space.

Ms Rasmeni questioned whether the Central Application Services was a priority in 2012/13, and if so, why this was not mentioned or targeted specifically.

Mr Qonde replied that Central Application Services would be one of the DHET’s top priorities and a team had been assembled to set it up.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) noted that South Africa was a developmental state and that perhaps there should be thought given to establishing the new university in the Northern Cape in a smaller town.

Mr Qonde replied that the DHET had met with the President and briefed him on the plans for establishing a university in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. Northern Cape, in particular, had vast areas that were presently under-developed, and this should be seen as an opportunity for other development initiatives in the province. The figure of R5.2 billion was an initial investment, and has to grow substantially over time. A detailed announcement would be made later in the year, around July, relating to the new universities to be established.

Mr Faber queried when the funds would be available to start on these projects. He also noted the shortage of academics and questioned whether there would be academics to fill the new universities. He stated his view that when a university was set up in a province, the courses and structure must be relevant to that province so that the province would benefit, and he felt that DHET should take this into account.

Mr Qonde stated that these were relevant points, but that it must also be borne in mind that these universities were national, as opposed to provincial, institutions.

Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) questioned what the timeframes were for the filling of vacant posts, as well as the timeframes for reducing the numbers of support staff and consultants.

Ms Mbobo replied that, due to budgetary constraints, the DHET had to prioritise and fill critical skills areas first, and senior posts were prioritised. The DHET had identified 54 critical skills to be filled in 2012. 

Mr De Villiers noted that the spending on consultants was also quite high, and commented that DHET should be concentrating on training personnel, instead of hiring consultants.

Mr Qonde replied that the DHET made use of consultants whilst it was building its own capacity, and that use of consultants had decreased significantly. DHET was trying to achieve the transfer of skills when using of consultants, had reduced the number of consultants substantially, and would be moving to eliminate their use altogether.

Mr De Villiers questioned how the DHET planned is to make ICT systems more supportive.

Ms Mbobo replied that the DHET had developed a draft ICT strategy, which looked at integrating all systems, using effective communications, better document management and workflow, and remote access of the network.

Mr De Villiers queried the manner in which, if at all, career guidance was given to learners at school. He pointed out that the future university students should be targeted whilst still at high school.  

Mr Qonde responded that, over and above what the DHET was doing, it also wanted to reach out to about 7 000 schools in career guidance. By the end of July, DHET hope to cover all of these schools, but had prioritised them, as some rural areas needed more support in this regard than others, whilst some schools were able to offer their own support services. The DHET was also hoping to achieve a significant impact in grade 9, when the students made their subject choices.

Mr De Villiers asked how many legal cases had been brought against the DHET, and the cost of these.

Mr Eben Boschoff, Acting Deputy Director General: Human Resource Planning, DHET,  replied that there had been 24 cases brought since the establishment of the DHET, and the legal costs amounted to approximately R4.5 million.

Mr De Villiers questioned how the DHET intended to prevent the current year’s  stampedes and unrest of prospective students, with particular plans for each province.

Mr Qonde replied that the DHET had plans in place. The unhappiness of the students was illustrative of the urgent need to expand the system. DHET wanted to acquire the resources needed to do this. Mr Qonde also emphasised that the careers guidance campaign at high schools would also address this problem, as earlier applications by students, urged by the “Apply Now Campaign” would allow the institutions to manage registrations more effectively.

Mr De Villiers queried why the numbers of learners receiving assistance through the National Skills Fund (NSF) had not been reported in this document.

Mr Mtisha noted this request and said he would provide the numbers to the Committee.

Mr De Villiers queried the number of student loans that had been converted into bursaries, and asked who monitored the progress in this regard.

Ms Parker replied that about 28 000 final year students had their loans converted to bursaries, and there was currently an evaluation into whether this programme was achieving the desired effect of stimulating better completion of degree courses.

Mr De Villiers noted that R2.5 million for the HIV/AIDS programme was spent on filling vacancies, and queried whether this budget would be diverted back to HIV/AIDS programmes in the next year.

Ms Makgate also noted her concerns, particularly since there was 3.4% prevalence of Aids among students. She queried whether this was a priority for the DHET, how much was currently budgeted for this programme, and why the DHET had decided to shift funding for this programme.

Ms Parker assured Members that the DHET was very serious about the issues of Aids. The shift was a once-off, agreed with National Treasury, because the funds were urgently needed elsewhere in DHET. There were still campaigns to deal with HIV/AIDS, and R5 million had been set aside in 2012/2013 for these programmes.

Ms Makgate questioned whether there was a transfer of skills from the consultants. 

Ms Makgate queried which institutions had been earmarked to receive funding for new residences.

Ms Parker replied that over R800 million had been earmarked for this, with the majority of this being allocated to historically black institutions. DHET was also trying to arrange preferent loans to these institutions.

The meeting was adjourned.


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