Department of Higher Education and Training on 2014/15 3rd & 4th Quarter Performance; White Paper on Post School Education

Higher Education, Science and Technology

17 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented the report on its third and fourth quarter 2014/15 performance, and gave details of its five programmes.

Programme One (administration) conducts the overall management of the Department and provides centralised support services. Programme Two (human resource development, planning and monitoring coordination) provides strategic direction in the development, implementation and monitoring of Departmental policies and human resource development strategy for South Africa. Programme Three (university education) develops and coordinates policy and regulatory frameworks for an effective and efficient university education system and provides financial support to universities, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and national institutes for higher education. Programme Four (vocational and continuing education and training) requires the DHET to plan, develop, evaluate, monitor and maintain national policy, programmes, assessment practices and systems for vocational and continuing education and training, including further education and training colleges and post-literacy adult education and training. Programme Five (skills development) promotes and monitors the national skills development strategy, and develops a skills development policy and a regulatory framework.

The Department’s spending during the third quarter amounted to R11.131 billion, and during the fourth quarter amounted to R5.783 billion. This represented a decline from the 48.04% of spending during the third quarter, due to the completion of university block grant payments for the 2014/15 financial year during November 2014. The limitations on funds for operational expenditure, including the funding of examiners and moderators, caused the Department to apply virements across programmes to ensure that no overspending was incurred. This had been supported through cost containment measures implemented by the Director-General.

Members were concerned with the non-achievement of targets by the DHET, delays in the award of tenders for the construction of TVET colleges, and the slow filling of vacant posts.

The Committee was also briefed on the White Paper on Post School Education, which sets out the principles, vision and policy framework for the consolidation of an integrated, well articulated, differentiated and coherent Post School Education and Training (PSET) system. The PSET was necessary to ensure coordinated implementation of the White paper, with coherence and alignment of all the processes to minimise contradictions, and supporting cooperation, collaboration, effectiveness, efficiency, differentiation and sustainable growth. Identification of funding was required for system targets and goals aligned with the NDP and other government commitments. A multi-disciplinary committee was to be appointed to assist in the development of the plan and five task teams were in the process of being set up.

Members questioned why it had taken so long for the plan to be developed, and expressed concern over the financial implications of implementing it. The Department was advised that the National Treasury should form part of the steering committee so it was aware of the future funding needs.

Meeting report

Briefing by Department of Higher Education and Training

Mr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director General: Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented the third and quarter 2014/15 performance report.

Programme One (administration) conducts the overall management of the Department and provides centralised support services.

Programme Two (human resource development, planning and monitoring coordination) provides strategic direction in the development, implementation and monitoring of Departmental policies and human resource development strategy for South Africa.

Programme Three (university education) develops and coordinates policy and regulatory frameworks for an effective and efficient university education system and provides financial support to universities, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and national institutes for higher education.

Programme Four (vocational and continuing education and training) requires the DHET to plan, develop, evaluate, monitor and maintain national policy, programmes, assessment practices and systems for vocational and continuing education and training, including further education and training colleges and post-literacy adult education and training.

Programme Five (skills development) promotes and monitors the national skills development strategy, and develops skills development policy and a regulatory framework.

The Department’s spending during the third quarter amounted to R11.131 billion. This represented a decline from the 14.9% of spending during the second quarter due to a decline in claims for other grants payable to higher education institutions in the third quarter of the 2014/15 financial year. The Department’s spending during the fourth quarter amounted to R5.783 billion. This represented a decline from the 48.04% of spending during the third quarter, due to the completion of university block grant payments for the 2014/15 financial year during November 2014. The limitations on funds for operational expenditure, including the funding of examiners and moderators, caused the Department to apply virements across programmes to ensure that no overspending was incurred. This had been supported through cost containment measures implemented by the Director-General

Discussion

Mr Y Cassim (DA) said that for the first time, enrolment of students at UNISA had decreased at a time when the country wanted to increase access to post-school education, and at the same time increase through-put. He asked the extent to which the decrease was a result of UNISA tightening its admission requirements, or a lack of funding for students. How confident was the DHET in attaining the National Development Plan (NDP) targeted number of university enrolments and vocational training by 2030? He asked about the difference between certification rates and pass rates for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (VCET) colleges. What had happened to the 2011 action plan to address under-spending at the DHET?

Ms J Killian (ANC) said future performance reports must include reasons for deviation from predetermined targets. She asked if the target on scarce skills spoke to the NDP target. More females should be trained, as most of them would take leave to nurture babies before continuing with their professions after graduation. There must be a serious intervention in Programme Five. Was DHET proposing any collaboration with Basic Education to improve on mathematics pass rates?

Ms M Mchunu (ANC) asked if any progress had been made in the filling of three vacant Deputy Director General posts. She asked why the DHET had not implemented the government’s ICT policy. She asked what fields of study were being followed by doctoral candidates.

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) said if the DHET was not meeting its targets, there must be something wrong in the way it set out its targets. The pass rates of students in colleges were either a problem of poor schooling or under-funding of students. The schooling standard was poor, and the decrease in enrolments was not the result of UNISA tightening its admission requirements. The maths literacy subject was not mathematics. She asked why the amount of levies to Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) was declining. The lack of young men in school was becoming a global problem -- not only in South Africa, but also in the United States, with most of them becoming involved with gangs. She asked if the delay in the building of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges was due to a problem with tenders. She requested that the Committee be given reports of research done by the DHET, for example, on the financial health of universities.

Ms M Nkadimeng (ANC) asked if the 1.2 million TVET college enrolment target would be met by 2019. What other challenges faced students, besides those involving NSFAS? Were there any plans to increase the training of artisans?

Mr M Mbatha (EFF) said young people were choosing courses based on what they thought were easy, not on future job prospects. The DHET should analyse the environment and see if the country was pulling in the right direction, and see if the qualifications earned by students would stand the test of time. It also had to look out for successful second and third year students who intended dropping out because of a lack of funding.

Mr Patel replied that the 2019 and 2030 targets for artisans and university numbers would be achieved, since they were projected on available funding. The VCET target of 2019 was going to be met unless something drastically happened along the way. The Deputy Minister was having engagements with Basic Education on maths because the picture was gloomy. One of the three DDG vacancies had been filled. The SETAs’ levy targets would come to fruition at the end the year.

Ms Lulama Mbobo, DGG: Corporate Services, DHET, said the vacancy rate was less than 10% and by the end of the fourth quarter, it was seven per cent. The transfer of VCET staff to the DHET had been a challenge, as it had had to transfer 39 000 staff. On 2 July, there would be interviews for the other two DDG vacancies. The DDG VCET had been advertised in January, but the creation of the new programme in the department meant it had had to redefine the job specifications. The DHET had aligned itself with the government ICT policy released by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) in October 2014.

Mr Zukile Mvalo, Acting DDG: Skills Development, DHET, said it had exceeded the annual target of artisans by more than a 1 000 last year, with a 20 000 head count enrolment. He was optimistic that by 2030, it would meet the 30 000 artisans target. A delay in the registration of artisans had been a result of SETA delays in submitting information. Companies registered for levies paid levies dependent on the company’s turn over.

Dr Diane Parker, Deputy Director General: University Education, DHET, said UNISA had set a target of 54 000 students, but had taken only 33 000. UNISA previously used to have an open door admission policy, even though it had admission requirements. The success rate was based on the number of courses passed, and the throughput rate was the rate at which students, who had entered the system, exited the system. In a study of students who had entered the university system in 2007, 30% of contact students had dropped out, while for distance education, there had been a throughput rate of only 30%. UNISA had to consider its admission policy to improve throughput rate. Funding received from the European Union would be used to consider how to improve throughput rate. Reports on financial health would be submitted to the Committee. The DHET was looking at strengthening the foundation phase teachers for maths and science. It was aware of the funding challenges for poor students, and was addressing the challenges of successful students dropping out from university. She did not have details about the fields of study for PhD graduates.

Mr Patel said the Department had completed the second bid to build new TVETs campuses, but it may readvertise again.

Ms Thembi Futshane, Chief Director: TVET Colleges Planning and Institutional Support, DHET, said that the enrolment target would be met with the limited infrastructure and limited resources. The certification rate was dependent on an individual passing all subjects -- fundamental and vocational subjects.

Mr Cassim asked what progress had been made on the student centres’ financial model. In the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR), the Committee had noted that the Minister had been tasked to hold VCET managers accountable for poor performance, and he asked what had been done. What happened when a university or college did not comply with NSFAS guidelines? He asked how many financially needy students there were at universities, and if there was a target for first-year enrolments at VCET colleges.

Mr E Siwela (ANC) said President Zuma had announced on Youth Day that education was an apex priority and that 12 colleges would be built. He asked if these TVET colleges would be completed during his term.

Ms Kilian had a feeling that the Department did not want to achieve its targets. She asked if there were subjects that attracted more females, and if there was a trend in women towards veterinary science. She asked how it could be made possible for students from impoverished families get post-school education. ‘

Dr Parker replied that NSFAS was currently implementing the student-centred financial aid model, but it had to address the challenges experienced in the pilot institutions before extending it to other universities. It would look at gender issues in cohort studies on degrees like MBChB, physical science and animal science and education. It was difficult to estimate the number of potential poor students not coming to university. It would look to see if NSFAS had an influence on the throughput rate.

Ms Futshane said the funding guidelines had a clause which stipulated no deviation. The financial assistance had a bias towards tuition fees, even though students needed a living allowance and accommodation. Some students were dishonest regarding allowances, giving fraudulent documents to get the money. They were creative beyond the DHET’s comprehension, and as it was closing the gaps, it was also putting honest students under serious strain. Figures for first time enrolments at TVET colleges would made available. The funding guide referred to academic potential and financial need, but schools were different and focus on academic potential may be biased against disadvantaged schools.

Mr Patel said the Department had moved 38 000 TVET employees to its payroll. Finance and human resources had worked full time, and this was an achievement. The next step was to coordinate TVET and community training colleges. Some managers had received letters of reprimand from the Minister as part of consequence management, but others had also transferred during the period. 12 colleges were to be built -- three constructions had already started and would be completed by December 2015, while the other three may over-run. The remaining six must be delivered by 2019.

Mr Cassim said some college principals were charging upfront fees for NSFAS students, making them pay accommodation fees on accommodation they never receive, and never getting their money back.

Dr Bozzoli asked if the tender requirements for the TVET colleges had any specific requirements, such as a company requiring a 49% shareholding of black people.

Mr C Kekana asked how female-dominated professions such as nursing and social work could be changed, and how building, carpentry, welding and electronics could include women, as they remained male-dominated.

Mr Patel said there was no particular person to answer the technical details on NSFAS.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer: DHET, said there were no regional specifics in the tenders, but for building contractors there were certain BEE requirements, and most of them did not meet such requirements.

Dr Parker said that since 2007, with the inception of the Funza Lushaka bursary, many men had been entering the teaching profession.

Mr Patel thanked the Committee, and said the Department would review all the comments received.

The Chairperson said the DHET had made a legacy of receiving an unqualified audit opinion, and had to move to a clean audit legacy. It must continuously train its staff through the training budget. It should expedite the readvertising of tenders. More needed to be done in Programmes One and Four. There had to be increased access to post-school training.

 

Development of national plan for post-school education

Dr Parker said the White paper on Post School Education sets out the principles, vision and policy framework for the consolidation of an integrated, well articulated, differentiated and coherent Post School Education and Training (PSET) system. The PSET was necessary to ensure coordinated implementation of the White paper, with coherence and alignment of all the processes to minimise contradictions, and supporting cooperation, collaboration, effectiveness, efficiency, differentiation and sustainable growth. Identification of funding was required for system targets and goals aligned with the NDP and other government commitments. A multi-disciplinary committee was to be appointed to assist in the development of the plan and five task teams were in the process of being set up.

Discussion

Dr Bozzoli said when countries embarked on the development of higher education systems, it involved massive budgets, and she was afraid the plan might not be implemented because of a lack of funds. She asked if the Department could not put its foot down with National Treasury and say it was not going to develop the plan if funds for implementation were not made available.

 Mr Cassim asked what the cost of the entire process was, and where the project management team fitted in the organogram. He requested the DHET to keep the Committee updated as the policy was developed.

The Chairperson asked if community colleges had been established in all the provinces.

Dr Parker replied she understood that there would be financial limitations, but this did not mean the plan should not be developed. Under the cost plan, it would put what it would be able to implement in the annual performance plan. R10 million was the development cost of the plan. The project management team operated in the coordination and task team group.

Mr Patel said that as from 1 April, all adult education institutions were now called continuing education centres, with various local community centres. There was one college per province that managed all the learning centres in the province. The total number of learning centres in the country was 3 150.

The Chairperson asked why the development of the policy was taking a year, since the country was in a phase of radical economic transformation.

Dr Parker replied the development of the plan required ongoing consultations with interested stakeholders. Further consultation would be done after the policy had been finalised.

The Chairperson advised that the National Treasury should form part of the steering committee so it was aware of future funding needs. She asked why it needed three months to analyse the plan after it had been produced.

Mr Patel replied that legally one month was needed to get public views after the policy had been produced, one month to put the comments together, and then analyse them and give them to the writers.

The Chairperson thanked the officials and the meeting was adjourned. 

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