The Committee convened to have extensive discussions on the funding of the Post School Education and Training sector. Various stakeholders including the Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Students Financial Aid Scheme, the National Research Foundation, Student leadership, Feenix and private providers made presentations at the meeting.
Members heard that the Post School Education and Training sector had opportunity for growth especially with more funding options on the horizon and measures adopted to improve enrollment include funding, infrastructure & human resource development. Members were intrigued to hear that the NSFAS funded students performed better than the general population in universities and TVET colleges. The NSFAS bursary has helped students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the success rate was increasing on a continuous basis. Members asked the Department to explain why it returned R400 million meant for infrastructure development at TVET colleges, to the National Treasury.
The Committee was pleased to hear that the Department aimed to increase funding to historically disadvantaged institutions and at same time ensure that historically advantaged institutions are well funded to keep them globally relevant and competitive. Members were urged to address the bullying of foreign academics in South African Universities. These academics should be supported in order to sustain the PSET sector.
Members heard that R70.8 billion was distributed to over 3 million recipients between 2010 and 2017. 85.7% of the money was allocated to university students, while the remaining 14.3% was allocated to students in TVET colleges. In 2018, 61.4% of NSFAS beneficiaries were female and applications for 2020 points in the same direction as 66% of the applicants as of 4 November 2019 were female. In 2018, an overwhelming majority of the beneficiaries were African students (95.1%0, followed by Coloured students (3.8%), white students (0.7%) and Indian students (0.4%). African students constitute 94% of the applications for 2020.
An Official from the Higher Education Transformation Network noted that the Department does not really prioritise security and safety on campuses. Gender-based Violence was a real challenge in most communities but the Department seemed not to recognise the problem. There should be measures to curb GBV and other crimes in higher institutions of learning
Members were briefed by Feenix as a funding agency that provided an alternative funding model to assist students with debts. The agency used technology to connect funders and potential beneficiaries. The agency has disbursed R28 million to students so far and hoped to raise about R36 million to assist 908 students in the 2019 academic year. Feenix already funded 860 students. Feenix currently broke the thousand mark in the disbursement process. The last count was 1 060 students. 126 business funders are registered on the platform and there are 1 500 individual funders. 908 students are registered for the 2019 academic year and those students have a total outstanding debt of R46 million.
Members heard that most private providers no longer wished to transact business with institutions within the PSET sector due to the unnecessary bottle necks attributable to the institutions. Some of the institutions do not give timeous information neither do they clearly outline their scope of business. Some private providers sometimes waited for up to six months to get paid.
Members appreciated the decision of the Committee to invite the student bodies. They also appreciated the presentations of the student leadership, but advised them to have a more structured presentation in future meetings. Members apologised for oversight in excluding CET colleges from the discussion. The funding of CET colleges was even worse compared to TVET colleges. The Committee will engage with the Department further on this matter.
Members heard that the NRF provides support to institutions, researchers and post-graduate students on a competitive basis. The support offered includes research infrastructure and equipment grants, research grants and postgraduate student bursaries. The Committee found it mildly concerning that most of the funded PhD students were foreign students. They appreciated the NRF for its comprehensive statistical representations.
The Committee commended the NSFAS for progressive improvement in the disbursement of bursaries to students. The funding agency awarded 60 000 more bursaries in the financial year under review compared to the previous financial year.
Members commended the commitment of the Department and funding agencies to enhance students' access and success in the PSET sector. They felt that it was important that funding agencies provide detailed statistics and demographics of beneficiaries in order to guide future interventions and awareness. Further they felt that funding agencies should consult with under-represented communities in order to increase participation in various funding schemes. Members heard that accommodation of students remained a serious challenge. It should be addressed in order to create environment conducive for students to succeed.
The Chairperson welcomed MPs, delegation from the Department, other stakeholders and members of the public to the meeting. The meeting would focus on the funding of the post-School Education & Training Sector, which is pivotal to the sustainability of the sector. All stakeholders should have robust conversations about funding of the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector. The Minister of Education, Mr Blade Nzimande, and the Deputy Minister sent apologies. The Minister could not attend the meeting due to a prior commitment he had in Johannesburg, and the Deputy Minister went overseas for an official assignment. The meeting was the second installment of colloquiums to discuss funding in the PSET Sector. The discussions will focus on funding for infrastructure development at PSET institutions, funding for research and development, academic offerings, the National Research Foundation funding and the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) among others. The Chairperson urged all stakeholders to have honest conversations on the funding of various aspects in the PSET Sector. The National Development Planning states that the second most important investment a nation can make is the development of its people. Education is vital to create a society that is better positioned to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century.
The South African Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to basic and further education. Section 29(1a &b) of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and to further education, which the State, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. The White Paper on PSET states that education is vital to liberate individuals from poverty and it promotes equality of opportunity. Social justice can be achieved if all sections of the population have equal access to quality education. The NDP further articulates that the headcounts of student enrollments in Universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and Community colleges should be 1.62 million, 1.25 million and 1 million, respectively by 2030. It also stipulates that the number of Masters and Doctoral students should increase by 2030. South Africa has set sites on producing 100 Doctoral graduates per 1 million people. The democratic government has, since, 2018, implemented fee-free education to support students in Universities and TVET colleges. The beneficiaries are students from households that have less than R350 000 combined income per year. This policy will increase enrollments in Universities and TVET colleges and ultimately reduce poverty and unemployment. It will enhance equality and economic growth. Funding ensures that the Constitutional Right to education and Policy Pronouncements are realised. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of 1999 and the Money Bill Amendment Act of 2009 empowers Parliament to interrogate how government Departments spend funds allocated to them. The colloquiums will help to discuss the strength, weakness and other areas of concern related to funding in the PSET Sector.
Keynote Address of the Minister
Dr Diane Parker, the Deputy Director General (DDG) for University Education, delivered the keynote address on behalf of the Minister.
The Universities, TVET colleges and Community colleges play important roles in the development of the country. They also play important role to educate the youths. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has managed to double the number of enrollments in both Universities and TVET colleges over the past 20 years and NSFAS plays vital role in funding students in those institutions. The PSET sector still has the opportunity for growth. In 2017, only 2.3 million students of across all age groups registered in the PSET sector, whereas about 3.2 million people within the age group of 15-24 years did not enroll in any educational system. Some of the measures adopted to improve enrollment include funding, infrastructure & human resource development. The Department also encourages institutions to offer responsive programmes in order to prepare them to solve societal challenges. The nation has not achieved its goal in terms of enrollments in Universities, TVET and Community colleges. There are about 1 million students enrolling in the universities. The country falls behind most developed nations and BRICS countries in terms of enrollments in the PSET sector. Currently, the country does not optimise the modern technologies of the 21st Century to encourage access to and success in the PSET sector. New technologies increase access to education. It is important that the access is matched with success. Therefore, infrastructure and human resources must be adequate. The institutions must offer modules that are relevant to the needs of the communities. The investments in the PSET sector have yielded fruits in the past 20 years. There has been an increase in the number of graduates since 2009. NSFAS-funded students perform better than the general population in universities and TVET colleges. The NSFAS bursary has helped students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the success rate is increasing on a continuous basis. The Department aims to increase funding to historically disadvantaged institutions and at same time ensures that historically advantaged institutions are well funded to keep them globally relevant and competitive. The funding of the PSET sector has increased significantly over the last few years. However, the funding does not cover all financial demands in those institutions. The funding increases at about 12.6% per annum and it increased from R73 billion in the 2019/20 financial year to R104.4 billion in the 2021/22 financial year. The increased funding helps both poor and working class students in universities and TVET colleges. The fund has helped to boost student enrollment in both universities and TVET colleges. The new funding scheme, which began in 2018, has increased the number of students funded at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Currently, only about 10% of post-graduate students are funded. The Department aims to increase the number of funded PG students by soliciting funds from relevant quarters. Undergraduates in universities and students in TVET colleges received total bursaries of R82 billion and R20.4 billion, respectively, over the MTEF period. An insignificant amount of R4 billion was invested in PG students. The Department prioritises funding for infrastructural development at PSET institutions. Government has approved R4 billion for infrastructural development at TVET colleges. The lack of funding, in the past, has led to the massive degradation of infrastructure across TVET campuses. The allocated infrastructure fund will help to address most of the decay observed in TVET colleges across the country. The Department will evaluate the capability of the colleges to utilise the funding for infrastructure development. The Department invested R28.7 billion in infrastructure development and maintenance in universities. The Department will ensure effective monitoring and evaluation so that the funding is spent on intended purposes.
The DHET funds academic programmes and research activities. Most of the funding for PG is based on output in terms of the number of Master’s and Doctoral students a particular university graduates and the number of scholarly publications. Most of the PG findings go to universities with high PG student turn-out and research publications. However, the DHET aims to provide funding to some institutions which are vital to the success of the PSET sector but do not graduate PG students or generate research publications. The DHET, Department of Science & Innovation and Council on Higher Education are working together to address matters related to ethical standards in scholarly publications. The funding of scholarly publications has resulted in increased productivity in the university sector. Government has increased funding of the PSET sector. However, the country is still far from the target of 1.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The increased funding must be used judiciously to ensure that students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to quality education. The funded students must be monitored and given all necessary support to ensure success. The Department will continue to improve infrastructure and human resource development in the PSET sector.
Briefing on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
Dr Randall Carolissen, the Administrator of the NSFAS, noted that unsustainable increases in school fees on a yearly basis will inevitably lead to lifetime debt entrapment for students. While the NSFAS' research infrastructure is pretty much at infancy, there are significant trends that can add value and quality to various debates on higher education going forward.
Key success factors of the NSFAS funding include security and safety, especially in relation to the curtailment of gender-based violence (GBV), access to both physical and mental health, quantity and quality of residences and general student accommodation and the decolonization of the curriculum. There is extensive debate on course offerings geared towards meeting the needs of the local communities in particular, and the nation in general. There are also efforts to digitise the mode of delivery to students. About 45.7% of the youth aged 19 is not enrolled in any educational system. 41.4% of youth aged 19 years are currently attending secondary school (or high school), and only 6.4% of youth at age 19 are attending or are enrolled at University. This educational profile amplifies the youth unemployment in the country. Not only are the youth not employed, they are not studying. Investment in education is vital to the development of any society. Kenya has benefitted massively from its investment in TVET colleges. The Majority of the students now use tablets instead of books. Students in Kenyan TVET colleges play important roles in the production and assembly of the TVET. This initiative resulted in a drastically reduced crime rate in Nairobi, and arrested the unhealthy urbanisation as people now preferred to stay in their particular areas due to the presence of TVET colleges. TVET colleges are seen as a second choice in South Africa. People only go to TVET colleges after universities reject them. The statistics that emanate from the DHET and other related entities amplify the unemployment dilemma that the country faces. Female participation at public higher educational institutions (universities) and TVET colleges was 58% and 57%, respectively in 2016. There has been an increase in the number of enrolments at both universities and TVET colleges. The NSFAS has ensured that qualified students access funding. At the end of 2018, the NSFAS managed to attract 450 000 applicants for funding and that was quite a large number. Despite that, there were about 120 000 walk-in applicants in January of 2019 and this presented an enormous challenge to a funding agency like the NSFAS because the applications were processed in a hurry so that the students could access the funding in February. The NSFAS hopes the situation will get better in 2020. The annual report shows that there was an irregular expenditure of R7 billion in the University system during the 2017/ 18 financial years. This resulted from incorrect records and money getting into the wrong hands. There was improvement in the current financial year. The NSFAS had only 23 000 cases of irregular records, which resulted mainly from the failure of students to sign the necessary agreements. The NSFAS has instituted controls to ensure the money gets to the intended students. There are a number of on-going investigations into the irregular expenditure. Most of the irregular expenditure was perpetuated by staff or syndicates within the educational system. The NSFAS hopes to scrap the current method of disbursement and pay money directly to students in the next financial year. The NSFAS has recorded marked improvements in most of its operations with the exception of cyber-security, which constitutes a huge challenge to the funding agency. The NSFAS disbursed R21 billion to about 650 000 students and most of the disbursement occurred during the last quarter of the 2018/ 19 financial year. Within the first two months of the NSFASs’ Administration, the funding agency released R15 billion to students who were unfunded for periods of up to eight months. The NSFAS processed 160 000 applications from TVET students in real-time in January 2019 and this helped the students with their registration. For the first time, the NSFAS made the first payment of funding to students in February 2019 and continued monthly payment thereafter to approximately 640 000 students. The NSFAS is prepared to release the entire R38 billion for the 2019 academic year. More than 90% of the application is online and can be tracked. Students can contact the funding agency for free especially with MTN and Vodacom numbers. The NSFAS prepopulates application forms using data received from the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The accuracy of the applicant’s and parent details will be verified with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Social welfare beneficiaries and differently abled students will be validated with the Department of Social Development and there will be dedicated administration capacity for TVET colleges. The NSFAS funding is yielding visible results. The number of enrolments in universities has grown from roughly 600 000 in 2000 to nearly a million in 2016. Enrolments at TVET colleges have doubled since 2001, growing from just over 350 000 to just over 700 000. In total, R70.8 billion was distributed to over 3 million recipients between 2010 and 2017. 85.7% of the money was allocated to university students, while the remaining 14.3% was allocated to students in TVET colleges. It is important to note that university subsidies have been steadily decreasing over the last 14 years. The NSFAS allocated R1 billion as debt relief to NSFAS-funded students who could not complete their studies because of debts. The funding agency continues to engage universities to allocate the debt relief to facilitate the graduation of students that owe. In fact, the total amount of intervention, in this regard, is R1.7 billion in previously unspent funds. Applicants must fulfil certain criteria to be eligible for the funding. Beneficiaries of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) automatically qualify for SASSA funding. Also, students with household income less R350 000 per annum also qualify. Differently abled students also qualify for the funding if the total household income is less than R600 000 per annum. Students must be registered with accredited institutions before they can receive funding. The Universities have a particular enrolment plan that is approved by the DHET. The number of enrolment at TVET colleges is less than anticipated. For 2016, 26.4% of University graduates were supported by the NSFAS funding. The NSFAS funds about 45% of the students in the university system. The debt burden is majorly borne by historically disadvantaged universities. For examples, NSFAS funded approximately 77% of the students that graduated from Mangosuthu University of Technology in 2016. This statistics does not absolve historically advantaged institutions from admitting disadvantaged students. In 2018, most NSFAS-funded students were funded for qualifications from the broad field of SET (37%). This is followed by business and commerce (31%). The highest number of applicants for NSFAS funding is from the KwaZulu-Natal Province, followed by Gauteng. The lowest number of applicants is found in both the Northern Cape and the Western Cape. The NSFAS had 64 000 more applications as of 4 November 2019 compared to the previous year. The total applications now stands at about 300 000 students. About 72 000 applications came from the KZN Province, 50 000 applications from Gauteng, 45 000 from Limpopo, 45 000 from the Free State and 30 000 from the Western Cape. The funding agencies have embarked on outreach programmes to create further awareness about the funding, especially in provinces with lower numbers of applications. In 2018, 61.4% of NSFAS beneficiaries were female and applications for 2020 points in the same direction as 66% of the applicants as of 4 November 2019 were female. In 2018, an overwhelming majority of the beneficiaries were African students (95.1%0, followed by Coloured students (3.8%), white students (0.7%) and Indian students (0.4%). African students constitute 94% of the applications for 2020. Applications from SASSA beneficiaries now constitute 28% of the overall 2020 applications.
Funding of the missing segments remains an outstanding challenge in the South African Higher Education ecosystem. The missing segments include, the missing middle (households earning above R350 000 per year); impoverished unfunded students (between 20% and 40%); post-graduate studies; unfunded undergraduate courses; uncoordinated and insufficient private sector and SETA bursaries. Other outstanding challenges include attractiveness of TVET colleges, suitable student accommodation and favourable living standards, access to technology in rural communities, alignment of courses to the NDP, graduate unemployment at 10% and country retention of critical skills (qualified graduates). Qualified graduates should be retained to prevent them from seeking haven in other countries like Australia and New Zealand.
The Chairperson appreciated the NSFAS' presentation and its determination to facilitate access and success of students in the PSET sector. The government, through the NSFAS, has taken R38 million from the fiscus and disbursed to students in higher institutions of learning. It is important that the government and private sector work together to fund students in order to reduce the unemployment challenge and advance the nation's economy. The NSFAS will brief the Committee on its annual report on 13 November 2019. Therefore, Members were advised to interrogate the annual report after it is presented. The Minister already tabled the report and certain people are privy to it already.
Presentation by Feenix
The CEO of Feenix, Mr Johan De Ru, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the work done by Feenix. The name Feenix originated from students of the University of the Western Cape following the fee-must-fall protests of 2015 and 2016. Following the protests, Feenix saw the opportunity to assist struggling university students and underwent a six-month research to find possible solutions to the challenge. At the time, there was no clear definition of the Missing Model and a significant number of students had financial difficulty because they could not obtain loans from banks to fund their studies. Feenix aims to attract funders who fund students for two reasons. The first one was to give back to the community or to feel good about themselves. Feenix uses technology to connect the funders and the students. Feenix presented the business case to Standard Bank in January 2017 and the bank was gracious enough to provide the funds to establish Feenix. Feenix was able to employ staff and developed the electronic platform within five months. The programme was first rolled out into the bank since it provides a safe environment. Standard Bank has close to 50 000 staff and it was a great environment to showcase the platform. Feenix was officially launched on the 21st of June 2017 and the platform was advertised on a number of media houses. Feenix is synonymous with conventional crowdfunding. However, it uses technology to bring the funders and the beneficiaries together on a single platform. The funders make small pieces of micro contributions to a wider capability to fund students. The students create an online profile. Students tell a brief story about themselves and answer relevant questions on what they do and their field of study. It is important that students specify the school they attended because certain funders are very loyal to their Alma Mater. The student also provides certified copies of their ID’s and a fee statement not older than three months. Feenix does validation checks to ensure that the student is a real person before it continues with the rest of the process. Feenix does an income validation check to ensure that the applicants come from households with less than R600 000 as combined total income per annum. The agency also consults with universities to ensure that the student is registered in the institution. Feenix also requests the university to present the fee statement of the applicant and the corresponding debt profile. It is concerning that some students could not get their certificate after graduation because of debt. Feenix assists such students. Once Feenix concludes the validation check, the applicant goes live on the platform. The student has the responsibility to connect to as many people as people, while Feenix tries to attract funders of different categories. Funders gain certain benefits such as significant tax reductions (40 to 45% reduction) when they submit tax returns. Feenix encourages funding organisations to absorb beneficiaries upon graduation. This will help to reduce the unemployment burden in the country. So far, Feenix has been able to raise R28 million to support students who struggle financially. Just over 2 600 students are on the Feenix platform. Feenix already funded 860 students. Feenix currently broke the thousand mark in the disbursement process. The last count was 1 060 students. 126 business funders are registered on the platform and there are 1 500 individual funders. 908 students are registered for the 2019 academic year and those students have a total outstanding debt of R46 million. Feenix has helped to fund students in all universities in South Africa with the exception of University of Mpumulanga and Sotplaate University. More awareness should be created in universities and communities that are under-represented. Feenix is not in competition with any funding agency or university. It is only an alternative model for students to receive funding to complete their university degrees.
The turn-around time for the application is approximately 21 days.
The Chairperson thanked Feenix for its initiative to facilitate student access and success in the university setting. He said that Feenix still has the opportunity to improve its funding to students.
Presentation by the South African Union of Students (SAUS)
An Executive Member of the South African Union of Students, Mr Zandile Dlamini, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to make presentation during the colloquium. Most graduates in South Africa are forced to pursue post-graduate degrees because most employers no longer reckon with first degree. The lack of funding for most PG studies is lamentable and most PG students have been forced to stay at home because of debts. The government should facilitate formidable relationships between institutions and the private sector as this would help to generate funding and shape the module in such a manner that courses offered are relevant to the needs of the industry. Some of the courses offered in institutions are not relevant to local context and this continues to worsen the unemployment dilemma. SAUS lauded the initiative of Minister Blade Nzimande to introduce new funding scheme to post-graduate students in Social Sciences and Humanities. This initiative should be extended to other fields of postgraduate studies. People are responding to the call and 244 PhD graduates have benefited from the scheme so far. The funding should not be limited to only traditional universities. It must be extended to other universities, especially the University of Technology (UOT) sector. Government should try to extend the funding as many people now opt for post-graduate studies. The Minister has delayed the release of the framework that regulates school fees in universities.
Mr Dlamini said that the Department must a have definite framework that regulates the increase in school fees. It is lamentable that managements in most institutions take decisions on fees and funding without consulting the student leadership. The Students' Union frowns at this approach and students would not hesitate to repeat the Fee-Must-Fall protest if management continues to undermine student leadership.
The Chairperson expressed displeasure with the SAUS' presentation. Student leadership should be well prepared when it makes presentations before a Parliamentary Committee. Members come from far and near and represent the entirety of South Africa. Therefore, Members should be taken seriously.
Presentation by the South African Further Education and Training Student Association (SAFETSA)
An Executive member of the SAFETSA appreciated the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity to make its presentation. He appreciated the continuous interventions by the Committee to better the lives of TVET college students across the country. This plays vital role in stopping potential student demonstrations. The SAFETSA is a national student leadership body for all 50 TVET college SRC’s. Its mission is to coordinate student voices in TVET colleges. Since its establishment in 2015, the body is committed to championing students' and societal interests. This is because students are members of communities before they enroll in colleges. The Association prioritises access and success of students. Funding plays a vital role in students' access to and success in education. The SAFETSA continues to take pride in the quality of leadership and composition of the Portfolio Committee and the future looks bright. TVET colleges continue to produce mid-level skills for the world of work. It is therefore important to equip students with generic and technical skills that are relevant to the industry. The world of work encompasses formal employment, self-employment and other forms of work. It is vital that TVET colleges meet the criteria and requirements set out in the NDP. Courses and activities in TVET colleges must be relevant to the immediate needs of the communities. This facilitates the integration of TVET graduates into the world of works upon graduation. A good number of TVET graduates now sit at home unemployed because they either have only theoretical knowledge or their skills are not relevant to the industry. Funding of TVET College students is not sufficient. The colleges must offer relevant courses. The funding that goes to all 256 campuses account for not more than 30% of the total funding that the Parliament allocates to the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology and about 70% goes to universities. This is why there is so much mediocrity in the TVET sector.
About 63% of the budget of TVET colleges is allocated to personnel, 27% is operational project and only 10% is allocated to infrastructure. As a result, infrastructure development as well as maintenance is difficult for most TVET colleges. TVET colleges are getting over-populated due to the failure to upgrade the infrastructure. There is an increase in enrolment due to the higher demand for education that resulted from the free education policy. TVET colleges must be appropriately funded to enhance the quality of human resources and infrastructure. Education becomes more interesting and conducive with the deployment of technology as opposed to traditional methods where lecturers draw diagrams on the board. The Department needs to prioritise student accommodation in TVET colleges. The student leadership expressed displeasure at the disposition of the Department towards the accommodation needs of TVET students. The Minister once donated R235 million to fund accommodation projects in the University of Zululand, which already has facilities to accommodate 5 560 students, whereas such funds were not available to TVET colleges that do not have facilities to accommodate even 100 students. The Department paid billions of Rands to bail out university students who could not complete their education due to school fee debt. Such funding has not been extended to TVET colleges. The funding the Department gave to university students was more than double the amount given to TVET college students. Funding given to university student is also flexible and allows students to purchase various academic materials. Both university and TVET college students must be treated similarly because they experience almost the same standard of living. Infrastructure at TVET colleges should be upgraded to give student an accommodating and interesting learning experience. Internet facilities and other relevant technologies must be readily available in lecture rooms, offices and residences. Healthcare in TVET colleges should be prioritised. There are scenarios where 4 000 students are assigned to a single psychologist and some colleges do not even have psychologists due to the lack of funding to employ such professionals.
The Chairperson appreciated the SEFTSA presentation.
Mr W Letsie (ANC) appreciated the effort of all the presenters. He expressed concern that about 38% of the youth do not have access to the PSET sector. He commended the NSFAS for its commitment to fund students in the PSET sector. There are 60 000 more beneficiaries in the current financial year compared to the prior financial year. The significant amount of beneficiaries in KZN resulted from awareness. The funding agency should ensure adequate outreach and create awareness about the funding, especially in communities that have low applications. The insignificant number of applications from Coloured and Indian communities might imply that those communities might not need the funding. He appreciated Feenix for the initiative to alleviate students' plight. It is however important that Feenix provides the demographics in terms of the number of male and female beneficiaries, geographical spread and so on. It is also important to know the identity of the private funders. It is important to know the motive behind the funding. ‘What are the funders funding for’?
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) also commended the various presenters. She noted that the DHET has improved in terms of governance and administration. The Department should coordinate every role-player in order to ensure the successful implementation of the various interventions. There must be a radical and comprehensive approach to integrate all role-players. All stakeholders must address the challenge of Gender-based Violence, as it remains a major concern in most South African communities. The NSFAS should provide concise demographics of its beneficiaries in future discussions. In addition to information on the gender of the beneficiaries, NSFAS should provide statistics on beneficiaries who are from the youth sector and those living with disabilities. Feenix should also give detailed demographics of the beneficiaries. This will empower the MPs during their oversight functions and to create awareness about the initiative where necessary. Feenix should coordinate with the Office of the President to further increase the chances of the beneficiaries to employment. Feenix's initiative is critical to the work of the Department. Feenix should take appropriate steps to integrate its system to those of the benefitting universities. This is easier to achieve if all stakeholders are willing to collaborate. There should be a memorandum of understanding between Feenix and the universities in this regard.
It is important that the various student leaders focus on relevant matters and avoid unnecessary comparisons. Presentations should be well prepared and articulated to facilitate effective communication during meetings. This will also make the MPs to take presentations seriously.
Mr P Keetse (EFF) urged the Department to address the bullying of foreign academics in South African Universities. These academics should be supported and shown support in order to sustain the PSET sector.
Presentation by Universities South Africa
Prof Ahmed C Bawa, the CEO of USAU, noted that there has been significant improvement in the funding received by various institutions within the PSET sector. However, some challenges confront the sector. These include underfunding and its impact on teaching, research and innovation; the high level of instability within the sector; student and staff wellbeing and safety; issues of governance; the deeply fractured schooling system and insufficient student accommodation. South Africa should be positioned to optimise new technologies in the higher education system in order to deal with the challenges of the new technological era.
There are 26 public universities and a few private institutions in South Africa. There are over 1.2 million students in the Higher Education sector. The percentage of women and male enrolments is 59 and 41% respectively. The lower participation of males is concerning and needs to be addressed. 14% of the students in higher education institutions attend private institutions. The system graduates more than 220 000 candidates annually and the gender split is 62% female and 38% male. The graduation rate is 60% and unemployment rate of graduates is 6%. It means there is still a significant uptake of graduates by the national economy. The number of students has grown significantly from 490 000 in 1994 to 1.2 million in 2018. However, the number of academics increased by only 50% during the same period. The system should develop measures to attract young academics to ensure sustainability. The NDP targets a participation rate of 30% (additional 650 000 students) by 2030 but the current participation rate is 21%. Technology can play a vital role to achieve the NDP target. The NDP also envisages a throughput rate of 80% by 2030 but the figure currently sits at 60%. There is marked improvement in the use of data and data analytics for early detection of students at risk. This plays an important role in targeting interventions, and improves the success of students. The NDP envisages that 75% of academics should have PhD and the university system should graduate 5 000 PhD graduates per annum by 2030. However, only 45% of academics have PhDs and the system produces 3 400 PhD graduates per year at the moment. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of PhD graduates since 2010. However, there are questions about the quality of the graduates.
There must be a deliberate effort to boost investment in the sector to ensure that qualified people have access to education and the beneficiaries must be supported to succeed. All institutions within the PSET sector including universities, TVET colleges; private and public institutions must work as an integrated unit in order to sustain the system. Data and Data analytics will play important role to monitor student success and growth. Gaining employment in the world of work is becoming more dynamic. Graduates need to cultivate a culture of lifelong learning for them to be employable. Employers sometimes prefer extra certification taken out to school to degrees. Therefore, graduates must constantly upgrade themselves. The PSET system generates more than 24 000 peer-reviewed articles per annum, which represents a 1% share of the global output. This performance is exceptional. A 10% share of the articles is in the top decile of most cited articles in the world, which implies that the quality is high. Relevant authorities are working to address concerns about the ethics of research. The number of research publications grew from 3 668 in 2000 to 15 550 in 2016. Biomedical and clinical sciences account for 16% of peer-review publications in 2016; Business, Economics and Management Sciences (10%); Social Sciences (9%); Physical Sciences (9%); Engineering (8%) and education (7%). 55% of the research publications comes through international collaborations. It is important to know the collaboration profile of each research. ‘What is the role of the South African researcher’? ‘Who drafted the research question’? 30% of the papers are published by female researchers and 32% are published by black researchers. It is concerning that 45% of the researchers are above 50 years old. The Department and other relevant authorities should develop initiatives to attract young academics to the system. There is a significant increase in the Gross Domestic Expenditure on R & D (GERD) from R7.5 billion in 2001/02 financial year to almost R36 billion in the 2016/17 financial year. However, the investment on R&D has remained almost constant in terms of rand value. South Africa occupies the 44th position in the world in GERD and it spends 0.8% of its GDP on R&D. This is lower than the amount spent by Israel (4.27%), Switzerland (3.37%), Sweden (3.27%) and Denmark (3.00%). There is decline in the amount of investments businesses make on R&D. This is deeply worrying as businesses contribute majorly to R&D in most of the developed economies around the world. There should be a measure to address the declining trend. The number of researchers in terms of a headcount was almost 57 000 during 2016/17 financial year. This includes Masters’ and PhD research students. However, there is a decrease in FTEs in real 9term and this is concerning. There should be measures to retain researchers and academics within the country. This will prevent them from seeking better opportunities elsewhere. There is need for a national, workable strategy to boost post-graduate funding as the sustainability of the higher education system is very reliant on broadening the PG pipeline. PG funding is required for building diverse pipeline for a new generation of academics, researchers and leaders. All role-players must work collaboratively to ensure the sustainability of the current DHET bursary model for undergraduate students. There should be measures to enhance effective service delivery to the beneficiaries of various funding initiatives. All students, who qualify to be in the Higher Education system, must receive the necessary financial support irrespective of their financial status. It is well known that students with NSFAS funding perform 7% better than students who do not have financial assistance.
There should be differentiation with articulation across the PSET sector. The function of each role-player must be clearly specified and all role-players must act collaboratively as part of a single ecosystem. None of the role-players can act in isolation. For instance, the universities can only thrive when the TVET colleges are functional. There should be a realistic assessment of how much it costs to graduate a student in South Africa. There should be investments in modern methods of delivery and the student-staff ratio at some Universities must be reduced to foster an inclusive and effective learning environment. The public and private sectors must work together to increase students' access and success in the PSET sector. There must be a deliberate effort to get GERD to 1% by 2020 and 1.5% in 2025. The Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) should be reestablished to increase the contribution of industry to research.
All aspects of the cyber infrastructure should be strengthened. Everyone in the country should have data. Data access should not be restricted to only students and staff. The Department should facilitate a properly funded national infrastructure plan at local, regional and national levels. Most Universities have limited number of staff with PhD and this limits their ability to participate in the knowledge enterprise.
Presentation by the National Research Foundation (NRF)
Dr M Qhobela, the CEO of the NRF, said that knowledge institutions play vital roles in the development of a society within its peculiar context. Any nation that fails to develop its people stands the risk of being dictated to by other nations. The destiny of such a nation will be determined by external forces. Investment in knowledge is an important step in the democratisation of knowledge, which facilitates economic and social development. The NRF only awards funding to those who apply. The NRF receives applications mostly from traditional universities and the Universities of Technology are under-represented. It is important to fund students at all levels. It has been shown that funded students complete their studies quicker and are able to enter the world of employment sooner.
Investment in future generations enables transformation of the inherited knowledge system.
The University system is relatively small. There are a total of 13 549 lecturers and research staff with PhDs in 2017 comprising 3 986 Africans, 668 Coloured, 1 048 Indians, and 7 357 whites.
The highest number of staff with PhDs is from Business, Economics and Management Studies (927), followed by Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (897) and Life Sciences (824).
There is modest enrollment of PG students. The headcount of students enrolled for Honours, Masters and PhD were 67 224, 59 153 and 22 572, respectively, bringing the total number of enrollment to 148 949 in 2017.
The NRF provides support to institutions, researchers and post-graduate students on a competitive basis. The support offered includes research infrastructure and equipment grants, research grants and postgraduate student bursaries. The NRF and the NSFAS must function as a single system. The funding agencies must put measures in place to ensure student access and success. For example, funded students must be supervised by appropriately qualified staff.
The demand and needs for researchers and postgraduate students exceeds the available support. South Africa needs to support up to 20% of registered PG students in the next 10 years in order to grow and transform the research system.
Also, the agency will aim to increase the success rate of research proposals submitted within the next 10 years to 50%. The NRF received 5 721 research applications in 2018. 2 637 applications were fundable but the agency eventually awarded 2 729, which made the success rate 47.7%.
There are more female beneficiaries than males when it comes to research grants and bursaries. Traditional universities submitted 12 033 applications, followed by comprehensive universities 3 096 and lastly Universities of Technology 1 522 in 2017. The NRF awarded R649 970 292.60 out of the total of the R3 709 477 507 requested. The total amount requested by awardees was R1 155 328 497. It is concerning that the amount requested decreased in 2018 despite the declining value of rand. The top five universities that submitted applications in 2017 were UCT (R 454 million), UP (R379 million), SU (R354 million), Wits (R344 million) and UKZN (R284 million), and the universities got R218 million, R153 million, R147 million, R174 million and R123 million, respectively. There were 4638 Grant Holder researchers and 13531 students (including post-doctoral fellows) in 2018. The introduction of the new policy on PG students' support was to enhance equity of access, success and throughput. The NRF invested R1.1 billion in students and post-doctoral fellows from various knowledge areas in 2018. Biomedical and chemical sciences had a 26% share, computer and information science 3%, Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences 6%, Economics 9%, Engineering 8%, Law 1%, Material, Physical & Technology Sciences 6%, Mathematical Sciences 2%, Medicine and Health Sciences 11%, Agriculture 14% and Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences 14%. UCT received 15% of the research grants in 2018, UP 12%, SU 12%, UW 12% and UKZN 12%. The NRF supported 1039 in UKZN in 2018, UW 973, SU 899, UCT 890 and UP 844, among others. Most of the funded PhD students are foreign students.
Ms Mananiso commended the NSFAS for progressive improvement in the disbursement of bursaries to students. The funding agency awarded 60 000 more bursaries in the financial year under review compared to the previous financial year. This resulted from improved awareness about the funding scheme. She also applauded the contribution of Feenix to students' access and success. It is important that Feenix supply demographics of the beneficiaries in terms of gender, Provinces and race. This will empower Members of Parliament to create more awareness about the organisation. It is important to know the interest of the funders. ‘What are they providing funding for’?
An Official from one of the CET colleges lamented the insensitivity of the Department and other role-players to the plight of CET colleges, especially regarding infrastructural matters. The Department only focuses on infrastructure development and maintenance in universities and TVET colleges. Most CET colleges are forced to use the premises of High schools for lectures only after 2pm in most cases. This situation is deplorable and the Portfolio Committee should intervene to address the challenge. Conducive and effective learning environment is vital to ensure access and success in CET colleges.
An Official from the Higher Education Transformation Network noted that the Department does not really prioritise security and safety on campuses. Gender-based Violence is a real challenge in most communities but the Department seemed not to recognise the problem. There should be measures to curb GBV and other crimes in higher institutions of learning. The current funding model for infrastructure development in the PSET sector is not working and needs revision. Why is the chunk of postgraduate funding going to foreign students? The country needs to invest more in the locals. It is important that all public and private institutions, private providers and other stakeholders work together to enhance infrastructure development in institutions across the country as this will facilitate access and success in the PSET sector.
The Chairperson apologised for excluding CET colleges from the discussion. It was an oversight on the part of the Committee. The funding of CET colleges is even worse compared to TVET colleges. The Committee will engage with the Department on the matter.
Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) appreciated the decision of the Committee to invite the student bodies. She also appreciated the presentations of the student leadership, but advised them to have a more structured presentation in subsequent meetings. All relevant role-players should ensure that the infrastructure challenges in institutions, especially in TVET colleges are addressed before the onset of the new academic year. She appreciated the NRF for its comprehensive statistical representations.
An official from the Alliance for Academic Success commended the Committee for the invitation. The Alliance for Academic Success is a private provider in the SMME sector that provides various services to institutions in the PSET sector. He complained that private providers were under-represented in the meeting. Most private providers no longer wish to transact business with institutions within the PSET sector due to the unnecessary bottle necks attributable to the institutions. Some of the institutions do not give timeous information and their scope of business. Some private providers sometimes wait for up to six months to get paid. Over the year, the private providers have learnt to factor the risks into the cost of the business and this results in a significant increase in project costs. A lot of institutions are getting over-crowded and this has grave consequences for security, maintenance and infrastructure. Over-crowding inevitably leads to the degradation and collapse of infrastructure. Most of the problems come from middle management.
A representative from the SRC from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, District 6 Campus sought to know how often the DHET updated the information on its website. Learners in both primary and secondary schools should receive adequate ICT training in order to cope with the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to compete favorably at a global level. It is concerning that some university students still struggle with the basics of computer.
The Chairperson acknowledged the accommodation challenge confronting students. Most of the challenge will be solved in the future with the aid of technology because students would have the capability to study from wherever they are.
The Department should explain why it returned R400 million, meant for infrastructure development at TVET colleges, to the National Treasury.
Dr Carolissen said that the NSFAS' data and data analytics progress was still at the infancy stage, nevertheless, they are vital in targeting interventions. The funding agency continues to engage MECs and other relevant stakeholders, especially in Provinces and communities that are under-represented in the NSFAS applications. Female beneficiaries continue to outnumber males. The NSFAS continues to improve data and ICT capabilities in order to improve the disbursement of bursaries to students. The agency took steps to curtail irregularities in the disbursement process. There were only 23 000 cases of irregularities in the current financial year and this resulted from the failure of students to fill in agreement forms appropriately.
Dr Parker said that the Department has taken steps to address security concerns on various campuses. This is a serious matter and requires an enormous investment. The Department collaborates with various institutions to develop measure to enhance security. For instance, access control will help to ensure that only authorised people are on campus.
The Department is taking steps to address the relationship between institutions and private providers. The relationship is sometimes only occasional. The Department will facilitate skills development within institutions that will lead to better transactions between the two parties.
The National Open Learning System is being planned and should be available in 2020. The system has two components. First, the Department is developing a Repository of Learning Materials, which can be shared among various institutions in the PSET sector. The Department has already considered Intellectual Property rights to a great extent. The second aspect is the management system. The Department aims to boost students' access and success in the PSET sector through the creation of an appropriate learning platform that will provide the right tools for students to succeed.
The University Infrastructure Programme comprises two sub-programmes: The Infrastructure and Efficiency Programme, which is partially funded through the Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant. The second programme is the New University Development Programme, which was introduced in 2011/2012 to plan and build two new universities. The programme earmarked grant for the construction of the UMP and SPU in line with their 10 to 15 year spatial development frameworks. The Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant of R28.6 billion is allocated to 24 universities between 2007/8 to 2020/21 financial year. All grants are awarded with detailed conditions including the format for the annual reporting and audit certificates.
The Department ensures effective implementation of the Student Housing Infrastructure Project (SHIP) projects. Large projects comprising 7 273 new beds are currently being developed and are at different stages of implementation. Nelson Mandela University has 2 000 new beds, the University of Fort Hare 1 437, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences Universities 2000 and Vaal University of Technology 1836 new beds. The next set of projects, for which feasibility studies have been done, will provide a total of 12 480 new beds in five universities. Further feasibility studies will be conducted in the current financial year to provide new beds to Cape Peninsula University of Technology 2 150, Central University of Technology 1 000, the University of Johannesburg 2000, Walter Sisulu University 3 000, Lephalale TVET college 1 200 and Northlink TVET college 1 500.
A Student Housing Infrastructure Programme Management Office (SHIP MO) is being set up to oversee the development under a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the Department, the DBSA and the National Treasury.
An official from the DHET said that the National Treasury requires all government Departments to return all unspent funds at the end of each financial year. The R400 million was declared unspent and returned to the National Treasury because the TVET colleges did not spend the fund. The Department could not move the fund to other institutions in the PSET sector as this would constitute fiscal dumping. The Department continues to engage with the National Treasury to see if the money can be rolled over into the subsequent financial year and used for infrastructure development in TVET colleges.
The Department of Higher Education and Training acknowledges the need to fund TVET colleges. Lack of funding resulted in the poor conditions of the TVET college infrastructure. For the first time, the Department allocated R7.9 billion to TVET colleges through the Capital Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant (CIEG). The CIEG is a conditional grant. Each college is required to open a separate interest bearing account. The funds are meant solely for repair and maintenance of TVET infrastructure. The Department requires the colleges to submit details of expenditure every quarter in a format prescribed by the Department. Each college should appoint a project manager or a service provider at an Assistant Director Salary level 9 to manage the project. Funding will cater for priority areas including bulk services, statutory compliance, sanitation, building repairs and student accommodation repairs.
The lower expenditure by TVET colleges was due to capacity constraints, lack of experienced and qualified staff to deal with infrastructure maintenance planning and execution, and the procurement of tenders exceeding R500 000 takes time to initiate. Expenditure at TVET colleges will significantly improve once the procurement challenge is solved. The Department will ensure that the CIEG fund is used for the intended purposes.
Dr Qhobela said that a significant proportion of the PG was foreign students. Most of them chose South African universities because of the quality they offer. In addition, South Africa made a pledge to reserve a certain quota for the enrollment of foreign students, especially those from the SADC region. The institutions have enrollment plans that specify the quota for indigenous and foreign students. Most of the foreign students bring their money to spend in South Africa.
The Chairperson appreciated everyone who participated in the meeting. The meeting's aim to discuss funding of the entire PSET sector was effectively achieved.
The meeting was adjourned.