Legislative Programme: briefing

Basic Education

31 August 1999
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

31 August 1999

Document handed out:
Higher Education Institutional Plans

Three bills, two of which have already been approved by Cabinet, are to be introduced this session: the Education Laws Amendment Bill, the Higher Education Amendment Bill and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bill.
The department has prioritised the need for a policy paper on teacher development.


Parliamentary committees: briefing
Ms Christelle Marais, manager of the parliamentary committee section, spoke about the Committee Section which is responsible for the administration of the 27 Portfolio Committees, ten Select Committees as well as the Joint and Ad hoc Committees. This committee section has 22 committee secretaries, assisted by seventeen committee assistants. She said that the greater majority of their staff had joined after 1995, with an average age group of 25 -35 years. The racial profile of their staff is as follows: 53.9% blacks; 23.1% coloureds; 18.42% whites; and 1.31% Indians. Ms Marais informed the portfolio committee of parliament's research unit and its law advisor unit which advises parliament on parliamentary procedures and provides legal opinions.
Ms Marais emphasised that the most important role of the portfolio committee is oversight of the department it shadows. The portfolio committee has the power to monitor, investigate and enquire. They can also look into legislation, rationalisation, restructuring and any matter which it considers to be of public interest. The committee can also initiate legislation, which will be dealt with in the same manner as private bills. The need to involve the public is a crucial one, therefore all committee proceedings are open to the press and public, unless the committee decides otherwise.

Legislative Programme
Trevor Coombe, Acting Director-General: Education Department, said that the Department has a duty to assist parliament in passing legislation, in order to ensure faster service delivery. He said that the minister will introduce three bills, two of which have already been approved by Cabinet. They are the Education Laws Amendment Bill, the Higher Education Amendment Bill and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bill.
Ms Nasima Badsha of the Education Department, spoke about the implementation of the Higher Education Act, No 101 of 1997, which sets out an eighteen month framework to comply with the new requirements revising the composition of the councils (of each higher education institution). These councils have been established and are functioning. These councils will table their first annual report to parliament, and provide a status report. This Act aims at regulating higher education.
Mr T Mseleku the Deputy Director General of Human Resources and Corporate Services in the Education Department outlined the issues and responsibilities of staff in the department. It is currently providing leadership in the implementation of the new Public Service Act and the Public Finance Management Act. These acts introduce Performance Budgeting in the Department, as well as implementing and developing service standards in line with "Batho Pele".
The department has prioritised the need for a coherent policy paper or White Paper, which will deal with matters such as:
What constitutes teacher development?
How will it be organised and delivered?
And to what end?
What kind of monitoring mechanisms do we need?
What recognition should be given to teachers for developing themselves?
What is the role of unions and professional bodies in this area.
This branch is also currently conducting a review on the conditions of employment for educators, and research studies on a new salary and remuneration policy in education.

Questions asked by committee members
Ms Benjamin (ANC) referred to the storm which has hit the Cape the previous Saturday night and had caused much damage to houses and schools, especially in the area of Surrey Estate, Manenberg and Guguletu. Surrey Estate Primary has been badly damaged and about 1000 children have been affected. Community halls in other areas are all fully occupied and are being used to house the victims of this tornado. Is there any funding available to these schools? Is there an education disaster plan, and if not, then I propose we work on a disaster plan to assist these children.
Chairperson: The Portfolio Committee has a motion in parliament tomorrow, and will join other Departments in dealing with the disaster issue.
A committee member suggested that the committee visit the schools affected by the tornado.
Chairperson: We can go as a delegation tomorrow. The delegation will consist of two ANC representatives, and one representative from each of the other parties. We will visit one school in each of the three areas.
Mr R van de Heever (ANC) proposed that the portfolio committee get involved in Literacy Week activities. An organisation called READ is organising activities at various schools regarding literacy.
Chairperson: We will support the programmes around literacy week, and we could look into the idea of visiting primary schools in the area to promote literacy.
All committee members were in favour of these two proposals. As there were no further questions, the meeting was adjourned for two weeks.

Appendix 1:
1. Introduction
In June 1998, the Department of Education (DoE) released a document: National and Institutional Higher Education Planning Requirements (NIHEPR), which outlined the framework and guidelines for implementing the system-wide and institution-based planning process identified in Education White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education (July 1997). Higher education institutions were requested to develop and submit by 15 August 1998 their first institutional three-year "rolling" plans for the planning phase 1999-2001, focusing on four key national policy priorities, viz. size and shape of the higher education system; equity; efficiency; and inter-institutional co-operation.
This report provides an overview of the first planning phase. It outlines the background to the planning process, reflects on the outcomes of the process and identifies the key trends and policy issues that flow from the institutional plans.
The need for a planning framework flows from the central contention of the White Paper, that is, that "higher education must be planned, governed and funded as a single national co-ordinated system, in order to overcome the fragmentation, inequality and inefficiency which are the legacy of the past, and successfully address the present and future challenges of reconstruction and development" (WP, #2.1).
The emphasis on planning and the inter-related set of proposals contained in the White Paper on governance and funding, is based on the notion that the higher education system must be:
(a) accountable for the expenditure of public funds
(b) responsive to societal interests and needs
(c) governed on the basis of co-operation and partnerships between the state, higher education institutions and civil society.
The planning framework outlined in the White Paper revolves around two key instruments:
The development of a national plan which will establish indicative targets for the size and shape of the system, overall growth and participation rates, including equity targets and institutional and programme mixes
The development of three-year institutional "rolling plans" which will include institutional mission and vision, indicative targets for student enrolments by programme, student and staff equity and development plans, academic development and quality improvement plans, research development plans, and infrastructural development plans. The institutional plans must be developed within the framework of the national plan and their approval will be the trigger for funding.
The primary purpose of planning is to ensure that:
(a) the higher education system achieves the transformation objectives set out in the White Paper
there is coherence with regard to the provision of higher education at the national level
limited resources are used efficiently and effectively.
Implementation Framework and Guidelines
The Department's approach in developing the implementation framework and guidelines for the planning process has been informed by two factors. First, a commitment to the notion that planning - both national and institutional, "should be an on-going, interactive process that is characterised by the principle of partnership and dialogue - and the use of incentives - rather than prescriptive rules and sanctions" (NIHEPR, p.3). Second, that if the planning process is to be successfully embedded and integrated into the higher education system, its point of departure must be the existing capacity of the Department and higher education institutions.
The Department recognises that the systemic capacity does not exist currently to implement the comprehensive and wide-ranging planning agenda outlined in the White Paper. Given this, the guidelines suggested that the planning agenda will have to be "implemented gradually and over time, with the pace of implementation being determined by the capacity of higher education institutions and of the Department of Education to manage the changes required" (NIHEPR, p.1). More specifically, the Department has proposed a five-year phasing-in period, with the comprehensive planning process linked to a new funding formula fully operational by 2003.
The guidelines further indicated that in terms of this incremental approach, the first planning phase - covering the period 1999-2000, will be primarily a preparatory phase involving the system-wide collection of planning information and developing the capacities required for the full planning framework, including, the development of a new higher education management information system and new funding arrangements.
In addition, the guidelines made it clear that at least in the initial stages of the first phase, the Department will not develop a national plan and the development of institutional three-year "rolling" plans will not be linked to funding, in particular, approved student places. Instead of a national plan, the main focus of planning at the national level in the first phase would centre on the identification of national policy priorities based on the transformation agenda and goals outlined in the White Paper. The latter would, in turn, set the framework within which institutions would develop their three-year "rolling" plans.
The rationale for not developing a comprehensive national plan at this stage, was based on the fact that the information base did not exist for developing an informed national plan. In the absence of such information, any attempt to develop a national plan would at best result in an abstract model with limited impact on institutional and systemic change, or at worst, lead to further uncertainty and instability in an already fragile system.
2.2 National Policy Priorities for the First Planning Phase
The Department, as indicated above, identified four national policy priorities for this first planning phase, viz. the size and shape of the higher education system; equity; efficiency; and inter-institutional co-operation. The choice of these four areas was based on their centrality to the transformation agenda and goals of the White Paper.
Institutions were requested in developing their three-year "rolling" plans to indicate how they intended responding to the national policy priorities based on the broad signals (as no targets were provided) outlined in the White Paper, as well as to indicate their planned student enrolments for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001. The specific questions they were asked to address in the four priority areas are detailed in Appendix One.
3. Outcomes of the Planning Process
It seems clear that despite initial reservations regarding the feasibility of jump-starting the planning process in the absence of all the relevant building blocks, in particular, national targets and the new funding formula and information system, it has had beneficial effects. This is indicated by the fact that most, if not all, institutions have suggested that irrespective of the outcomes of the process in terms of Departmental expectations, they found it very useful as it has compelled them to critically reflect on and examine their existing location and future direction. Furthermore, institutions have indicated that it has also led to greater intra-institutional co-ordination.
The work and effort that went into preparing the institutional plans needs to be acknowledged. Despite the tight deadlines, most institutions submitted their plans within the first week of the deadline and all but three had submitted by mid-September.
The planning process has also given concrete effect, through the institutional visits by the Department, to the principle of partnership and dialogue as a basis for meeting the challenges of transformation. The visits - the bulk of which took place between October and November 1998, with the remainder completed in early 1999, represent a significant milestone. It was the first time that departmental officials have visited all institutions to discuss institutional issues other than those related to crises and narrow management concerns.
The visits provided an opportunity to clarify issues, raise mutual concerns and discuss general trends. They also enabled the Department to get a better sense of the issues that require addressing in future rounds of the planning process. However, more importantly, the visits gave departmental officials a first-hand glimpse and better understanding not only of the problems and challenges that institutions face, but also of the new directions that are being explored, the innovations that are taking place and, above all, the value of the human resource capacity that exists within our higher education institutions. The visits thus confirmed that interaction and dialogue between the Department and institutions would be as important as the submission of published plans.
Critical Reflections and Lessons Learned
The institutional plans were, as can be expected, uneven and reflect the fact that institutions are at different stages of development in relation to the planning process. Furthermore, it became clear during the institutional visits that, in many cases, the plans had failed to adequately reflect the institutional context and the range of developments that were taking place. However, in combination, the plans and visits provide a broad overview and picture of the state of the higher education system in respect of the four priority areas. They represent a first step in the collection of information and the development of the capacities necessary to implement the full planning framework. However, much remains to be done if the full planning framework is to be successfully in place by 2003.
A critical evaluation of the institutional plans suggests that there are four inter-related issues that need to be addressed in order to strengthen the planning process. The four issues - three of which are internal to the planning process at institutions and the fourth relates to the planning guidelines developed by the Department, are discussed below.
Strategic Plans vs Three-year "Rolling" Plans
The first issue that needs to be addressed is the relationship between an institution's strategic plan and its three-year "rolling" plan". A strategic plan refers to a plan which outlines the institution's strategic location and thrust, including its areas of academic and research focus on the basis of the institutional vision and mission, its values and goals, and informed by the institutions social, economic, political, intellectual and cultural context.
The indications are that only a few institutions have developed strategic plans that have served as a basis for developing their three-year "rolling" plans. In the case of most institutions, however, there is either no strategic plan in place, or alternatively, the strategic plan is still in the process of development. The latter have indicated that their three-year "rolling" plans represent work-in-progress and would have to be revised once their strategic plans have been finalised. In addition, there are a small number of institutions that have developed strategic plans, however these have not informed the development of their three-year "rolling" plan.
This disjuncture in the planning process between strategic plans and three-year "rolling" plans is a major weakness and results in a mechanical response to national policy priorities based on unrealistic assumptions and projections.
In the absence of a strategic plan or in instances where a strategic plan does not relate to the three-year "rolling" plan, the vision and mission statements of institutions and their responses to national priorities, in particular, to size and shape issues, have been artificially "read-off" the White Paper and bear little or no relation to their existing realities and capacities. This can be illustrated in relation to two priorities signaled in the White Paper, i.e. the need to increase enrolments in science, engineering and technology (SET) and in postgraduate programmes. A range of institutions have identified these as priority areas for development without any reference to their existing institutional context in relation to supply-side factors such as their existing capacity in terms of staff, infrastructure, financial resources, etc., or demand-led factors such as the low number of students matriculating in science and mathematics, the lack of incentives for postgraduate study in the context of labour market competition and the paucity of postgraduate scholarships.
A further effect is that it is difficult to discern institutional strengths and niche areas - either existing or potential, in the institutional plans. If anything, despite the unevenness referred to above, there is a tendency towards institutional homogeneity with little room for diversity. This seems to be an unintended consequence of, and resulting from, a literal interpretation of the policy framework for a single co-ordinated higher education system outlined in the White Paper. Interpretations of the White Paper
In fact, literal and narrow interpretations of the White Paper are a cause for concern as it not only adversely impacts on the capacity of institutions to realistically respond to national priorities, but it could also affect the ability of the higher education system to fulfill its teaching, training and research mandate. This can be illustrated by way of two examples. First, the proposed shift in emphasis in institutional plans towards SET. This seems to be underpinned by an interpretation of the White Paper which suggests that the humanities and social sciences have a declining value as academic currency and that in future funding will be primarily routed to SET. This is clearly based on a misinterpretation of the White Paper which argues that while it is "necessary to correct the present imbalances" in SET, this should not "diminish the importance of programmes in the social sciences and humanities which contribute to knowledge production, in particular, to the understanding of social and human development, including social transformation" (WP #2.25, p.21).
Second, the programme-based approach to higher education outlined in the White Paper. Although not raised in the institutional plans, it became clear in the course of the institutional visits that this has created much confusion and programmes are in danger of being fetishised. The programme-based approach has been interpreted by many institutions to mean (i) that general and formative programmes would no longer be funded; (ii) that to qualify for funding all programmes would have to be linked to vocational outcomes. This has led, in some cases, to an approach to programme development that is narrowly vocationally focused and without any disciplinary foundation. The White Paper makes no such claims. A programme refers to a coherent, planned and integrated sequence of learning activities, which on successful completion, leads to the award of a formal qualification. In the case of higher education, this comprises, as the White Paper indicates, "all learning programmes leading to qualifications higher than the proposed Further Education and Training Certificate or the current standard 10 certificate" (W.P. # 2.4, p.17). The main import of a programme-based approach is that it will enable the Department to steer the system to meet national goals through the funding of approved student places in different programme fields and levels of study.
The end product of these misinterpretations is not only, as indicated, the development of institutional plans that are based on unrealistic assumptions and projections. But more importantly, it has implications for knowledge production and training and the continued ability of the higher education system to provide the full spectrum of educational opportunities necessary for social, economic, political and cultural development.
This suggests that in developing planning guidelines, the Department needs to ensure that it clarifies its interpretation of key policy issues. It also suggests that there is a need for a broader debate and engagement on policy issues.
Institutional Planning Process
The second issue that needs to be addressed is the nature of the institutional planning process in relation to the technical approach involved in compiling the plan, as well as the role of stakeholder participation. The general approach seems to have been neither top-down, i.e. where institutional management provides the framework in terms of institutional mission and goals to which the departments and faculties respond; or bottom-up, i.e. where the departments and faculties develop a framework that the institutional management aggregates and shapes to fit the institutional mission and goals.
Instead, the approach taken by many institutions is an ad-hoc compilation and aggregation of plans developed by departments and faculties. The end product is thus not an institutional plan but institutional plans. In the best cases, the department and faculty plans have been aggregated to provide a semblance of coherence; in the worse cases, the department and faculty plans have been compiled into a common document with no attempt at ensuring coherence. In either case, the resulting plans are both inconsistent and contradictory. The most glaring example of this approach and its implications is illustrated by an institutional plan in which the overall growth projections developed by management differ substantially from those developed by individual faculties, with no attempt to reconcile the two.
Furthermore, in many cases the ad-hoc approach resulted in institutional plans not satisfactorily addressing the four identified priority areas as individual faculties or departments were unable, in the absence of clear institutional policies, to provide information on such matters as equity, etc.
As far as stakeholder participation in the planning process is concerned, the evidence is mixed. In general, it seems that in most institutions the plans were not approved formally by the different governing structures and did not involve stakeholders - other than departments and faculties, in the formulation of the plan. This was largely due to time constraints imposed by the tight deadline. In some cases, formal approval was not deemed necessary as the plan had been organically developed out of the strategic plan that had both been formally approved and involved stakeholder participation. There are, however, a handful of institutions in which the institutional plan is an approved document and involved stakeholders in the formulation. The role of stakeholder participation clearly needs to be addressed in order to ensure ownership of the plans and to avoid unnecessary conflict and contestation.
Institutional Capacity
The third issue that needs to be addressed is that of institutional capacity and the institutionalisation of the planning process. The planning process, as the White Paper suggests, requires "new databases and considerably enhanced modelling and computing capacities" at both the institutional and the national level (WP #2.11, p. 19).
The institutional plans confirm the paucity of this capacity currently. There is little evidence, except in a few cases, that institutions have used statistical modelling techniques and detailed analysis of institutional, regional and national trends in developing their institutional plans. This is reflected, as indicated above, by unrealistic assumptions and projections that have either been derived, in the best case scenario from historical growth rates, and in the worse case scenario from thumbsucks and/or optimism of the will. The latter is illustrated, for example, by the fact that despite recent evidence of a declining rate of enrollment growth, a number of institutions have projected robust growth rates for the 1999-2001 period without any explanation of the underlying assumptions. There are other examples of unrealistic projections such as in relation to SET and postgraduate enrollments where in some cases institutions have projected doubling their enrollments (in one case, increasing postgraduate enrollments four-fold) without any reference, as indicated above, to institutional context and supply-side and demand-led factors.
The lack of capacity is further illustrated by the fact that in some instances even when statistical modelling has been used, the techniques are faulty, resulting in inconsistent and/or contradictory projections. For example, in some cases the projections of first-time entering undergraduates generates a larger total number of undergraduates than the projected total number of undergraduates - 7 000 more in one case and 14 000 in another!
The need to develop planning capacity, in particular, in relation to analytic and modelling skills is clear. However, capacity development must be linked to the institutionalisation of the planning process to ensure that planning becomes an integral part of the day-to-day operations of institutions and is not treated as a one-off annual exercise in response to departmental requirements. It is not clear, however, if the need for institutionalisation has been understood or accepted across the system, especially as many institutions have not established dedicated planning units.
It is also cause for concern that although the Department indicated that if requested, it would facilitate technical support to institutions requiring assistance in developing their institutional plans, only one institution did so. In this respect, it should also be noted that there seems to have been little co-operation and sharing of skills and expertise between institutions.
Planning Guidelines
The fourth issue that needs to be addressed relates to the guidelines provided by the DoE on the basis of which institutions develop their plans. The guidelines need to be clearer both in relation to technical issues such as definitions, data requirements, formats, etc., and to the policy signals which underpin the identified policy priorities.
The lack of clear guidelines has not only resulted in differing (mis) interpretations of the White Paper, as discussed above, but also in wide variations in the submission of data by institutions. This precludes or at least makes it very difficult to undertake, system-wide and comparative analysis, which is critical for national planning purposes. This can be illustrated, for example, in terms of the data submitted on postgraduate enrolment projections where there is no consistency in the inclusion of honours and B.Tech programmes in the institutional definition of postgraduate programmes. Similarly, for example, there is wide variation, largely determined by institutional organisational structures, in the submission of data on employment equity.
In addition to clearer guidelines, the timeframes for the planning process also need to be clarified. This is necessary to allow institutions to bring their own internal processes, in particular, consultative and formal approval processes, in line with national requirements. In this respect, it should be noted that in future the planning process will have to be linked to, and synchronised with the timeframes for, the national budget process.
4. Key Trends and Policy Issues
The discussion above has focused on an overall assessment of the planning process. Although this is necessary to improve and strengthen the planning process in future, it does not directly impact on the development of a national plan. The latter requires a detailed analysis of the key trends and issues that emerge from the institutional plans in relation to the four national policy priority
issues on which institutions were asked to report, viz. size and shape of the higher education system; equity; efficiency; and inter-institutional co-operation. These are examined, in turn, below.
4.1 Size and Shape
In terms of size (i.e. student enrolments) and shape (i.e. student enrolments across different institutional types and fields and levels of study), the following trends and issues need to be highlighted and their implications considered:
4.1.1 Enrolment Growth
The higher education system has grown, in terms of head count enrolments, by 98 000 between 1993 and 1997, i.e. from 496 000 to 594 000 or just under twenty percent. It is projected to grow, based on the institutional plans, by a further 91 000 between 1997 and 2001, i.e. from 594 000 to 685 000 or fifteen percent (cf Graphs 1 & 3). This represents an overall growth of thirty eight percent between 1993 and 2001 which suggests that the growth forecasts of the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) which projected that the system - including enrolments in private higher education institutions, would double to about 1.5 million by 2005, were over-optimistic.
In fact, taking into account the general decrease in enrolments in the past two years, it is likely that the projections for 2001 are also on the optimistic side. Although audited enrolment figures for 1998 are not currently available, the preliminary evidence suggests that the public system is not likely to grow by more than ten percent between 1997 and 2001, i.e. an upper limit of 650 000. It is difficult to project the overall growth in terms of both the public and private sectors as reliable data for the private institutions is not available. However, it is unlikely that in total, i.e. public and private, enrolments would exceed the one million mark by 2001 or reach 1.5 million by 2005.
In terms of the enrolment growth between 1993 and 2001, i.e. actual and planned enrolments, the following trends are highlighted:
Technikon enrolments have grown faster than university enrolments - between 1993 and 1997, technikon enrolments increased from 147 000 to 215 000, i.e. by 68 000 or forty six percent. They are planned to increase to 262 000 by 2001, i.e. by a further 47 000 or just under thirty percent. In the same period, university enrolments increased from 349 000 to 379 000 i.e. by 30 000 or 8.6% an are planned to increase to 423 000 by 2001, i.e. by a further 44 000 or 11.6% (cf Graph 1)
The inverted pyramid identified by the NCHE and in the Green Paper on Higher Education as a source of concern in terms of enrolment patterns, is clearly changing. If the planned enrolments for 2001 are realised, then the universities' share of total higher education enrolments would have decreased from 71% in 1993 and 64% in 1997 to 62% in 2001 (cf Graph 2).
As far as the distribution of enrolments across the existing inter- and intra-institutional sectors is concerned, it should be noted that since 1993, they are:
decreasing in the Historically Black Universities (HBUs)
increasing in the Historically Afrikaans Universities (HAUs)
remaining steady in the Historically English Universities
increased between 1993 and 1997 and remaining steady thereafter in the Historically Black Technikons (HBTs)
increasing in the Historically White Technikons (HWTs)
decreasing at UNISA and remaining steady at Technikon SA.
More specifically, the planned growth between 1997 and 2001 is concentrated in three main sectors; the HAUs plan to grow by 40 000 or 43%; the HWTs plan to grow by 34 000 or 43%; and Technikon SA plans to grow by 10 000 or 12% (cf Graphs 3 &4).
The reasons or the changing distribution of enrolments are not clear and require further investigation. However, a number of factors have been identified by institutions, including:
student and parental perceptions of instability and resultant declines in quality and standards at the HDIs
poor matriculation results, especially in relation to passes with exemptions
lack of access to financial aid
flexible entry requirements and expansion of distance and telematic programmes in the HAUs and the HWTs
increased competition from private higher education institutions
perceptions that technikon progammes were more likely to increase employment prospects.
The overall growth in enrolments between 1997 and 2001 is based on the assumption that the total of first-time entering undergraduates will increase by 16 000, i.e. from 126 000 in 1997 to 142 000 in 2001, with the increase primarily concentrated in the contact institutions whose share of enrolments is expected to increase by 16 000, i.e. from 90 000 in 1997 to 106 000 in 2001.
This assumption is problematic in two respects. First, the magnitude of the projected increase in first-time entering students is dependent on either an increase in the number of matriculation passes with exemption or an increase in the recruitment of non-traditional students, i.e. students outside the standard 18-24 age cohort. However, the evidence suggests that neither of these conditions can be satisfied at present. The total number of school leavers with matriculation exemption has been declining in the past few years and is unlikely to increase, at least in the short-term. Moreover, although the White Paper signaled the need to broaden the base of higher education by recruiting non-traditional, specifically adults, there is little evidence that this is happening or that it is planned for in the future. Only a few institutions are addressing this issue through the provision of distance and part-time programmes.
Second, the enrolment growth in the HWTs is based, in addition, on the
assumption that the total of White first-time entering undergraduates will increase by 2 200 or 28% in 2001 compared to 1997. The evidence, however, suggests a declining trend in white intakes. The total first time-entering white undergraduates decreased from 40 600 in 1993 to 32 300 in 1997, i.e. by 8 300 or 20%. The decrease was higher in the technikons - 5 000 or 31%, than in universities - 3 300 or 14%.
Enrolments by Fields of Study
In terms of fields of study, despite the shift in focus in institutional plans towards SET discussed above, there is no change in the overall balance in (head count) enrolments in the humanities and science and technology between 1993 and 2001. This remains unchanged at 75% (an increase of 72 000 from 1997) in the humanities and 25% (an increase of 19 000 from 1997) in science and technology. In fact, in university enrolments there is a slight increase in enrolments in the humanities from 77% in 1993 to 80% in 2001, while in technikon enrolments there is a marginal decrease from 70% in 1993 to 69% in 2001 (cf Graph 5).
The main reason for the unchanged ratio can be explained by the fact that the institutions planning major enrolment growth between 1997 and 2001 - the HAUs and the HWTs, intend doing so in the humanities. Of the 39 000 planned university increases in the humanities, 37 000 are in the HAUs, while of the 33 000 planned technikon increases in the humanities, 24 000 are in the HWTs. The increases in science and technology are accounted for by the HWTs - 10 000 students and Technikon SA - 7 000 students (cf Table 1).
There are, however, two important caveats that need to be highlighted in relation to the enrolment projections by field of study. First, the projections are based on existing CESM categories that are problematic as the humanities are broadly defined to include the economic and management sciences. Although it has not been possible to further disaggregate the humanities projections, it is clear from the plans that the major increases in the humanities are actually in the economic and management sciences. The latter probably account for just over a third of total enrolments.
Second, the problem with the CESM humanities category is further compounded in the case of technikon programmes as it includes a range of programmes that are vocationally-oriented and can best be categorised as applied technology progammes. There is a danger that such programmes could be under threat unless the CESM categories are redefined and the White Paper signals on science and technology are not narrowly interpreted.
In this respect, it is necessary to emphasise, as indicated above, that the short-term need to rectify the present imbalances in SET enrolments should not be undertaken at the expense of the long-term need to ensure a balance in enrolments across different fields of study. Furthermore, although the rectification of the imbalances in SET enrolments is a national priority it does not follow that all institutions are necessarily required to contribute to addressing the problem. As argued above, it is essential that institutions address this in the context of their institutional location, vision and mission and capacity.
It should also be noted that in the context of the communications and information revolution and the impact of this on the relationship between education and the world of work, the traditional stark divisions between the human and natural sciences is itself being blurred. This has been recognised by many institutions as indicated not only by the innovative and cross-curricular programmes that are in the process being developed, but also by the introduction of proficiency requirements for all students in skills such as numeracy and computer literacy.
Undergraduate and Postgraduate Enrolments
The White Paper states that one of the goals of an expanding higher education system is to expand "enrolments in postgraduate programmes at the masters and doctoral levels, to address the high-level skills necessary for social and economic development and to provide for the needs of the academic labour market" (WP #2.24, p. 21).
The evidence, however, suggests that this goal is likely to prove difficult to meet. In 1997, in terms of headcount enrolments, postgraduate students represented 13% of the total number of students. Of these, 19% were in the universities and 2% in the technikons. Although it has not been possible to analyse the projections for postgraduate enrolments in the institutional plans because of the definitional problems discussed above, it is unlikely that this ratio will change substantially (cf Table 2).
Institutions have suggested two reasons for this; (i) the shortage of funding for postgraduate students; (ii) the lack of incentives for postgraduate study in the context of labour market competition from both the public and private sectors.
The need to urgently address this problem cannot be over-emphasised. It is clear that unless strategies are developed at a system-wide and institutional levels to make postgraduate study and academic careers attractive options, there is a danger that not only will it result in the general depletion of research and development capacity, but it will also impact on the capacity of the higher education system to replenish its own academic labour needs.
It should also be noted that, as with enrolment projections in general, there are a number of institutions that have proposed fairly robust postgraduate enrolment projections without any reference to institutional context and capacity. The need to expand postgraduate enrolments does not mean, as in the case of SET, that all institutions must necessarily move in this direction. This is clearly stated in the White Paper which argues that given the "national strategic importance of research, and in order to ensure that the relatively scarce funds available for the development of research capability are well targeted, public funds…..should not be spread across all faculties or schools in all institutions but should rather be concentrated in those areas where there is demonstrable research capacity or potential, in both HDIs and HWIs" (WP #4.54, p. 54).
Distance Education
It is clear from the institutional plans that the role and function of distance education in higher education is rapidly changing and that the traditional distinction between contact and distance education is increasingly being blurred. This is indicated by the proliferation of distance education programmes that have been developed or are planned by traditionally contact institutions - it is estimated that currently in total there are just under 50 000 distance headcount enrolments in contact institutions. Moreover, contact institutions that have decided not to shift focus, are investigating the development of resource-based learning using multi-media delivery modes as part of their traditional programmes.
The developments in distance education have also been accompanied by a change in approach based on the recognition that the traditional correspondence model of distance education is outmoded. This has been replaced with a model that incorporates as an integral component, the provision of learner support through a variety of mechanisms, including learning centres with audio-visual and computer support and satellite campuses.
The expansion of distance education programmes has clearly been influenced by three factors. First, the changing nature of knowledge production flowing from globalisation and the communications and information revolution. Second, the need for greater cost-efficiency, which impacts on the ability of institutions to grow without increasing their staff levels and associated infrastructural costs. Third, increased competition from private higher education institutions - both local and international.
The developments in distance education must be welcomed as they indicate the growing responsiveness of institutions not only to changes in knowledge production, but also to the needs of learners who are in employment or who need to earn in order to meet study costs. The fact that there is a market for such programmes is clearly demonstrated by the rapid growth in enrolments in distance education programmes offered by a range of contact institutions, i.e. over and above those offered by the traditional dedicated distance education institutions and the growing number of private institutions.
However, these developments raise a number of policy issues that need to be addressed. First, the blurring of the lines suggests that the current distinction between contact and (dedicated) distance institutions needs to be reviewed and considered in the development of the new funding formula for higher education.
Second, the potential duplication and overlap in the development of courses, especially foundation and common courses, must be avoided as it is likely to adversely impact on quality and cost-effectiveness. In this regard, consideration should be given to, and the feasibility investigated of, the White Paper's proposal for the "development of a national network of centres of innovation in course design and development, as this would enable the development and franchising of well-designed, quality and cost-effective learning resources and courses, building on the expertise and experience of top quality scholars and educators in different parts of the country" (WP #2.61, p. 27).
Third, the implications of the establishment of satellite campuses by both contact and distance institutions in areas that were traditionally the domain of other institutions needs to be explored both in terms of cost-effectiveness and the impact on the institutions traditionally operating in those areas. In this regard, the White Paper's proposal for the establishment of a regional network of learning centres - based on the notion inter-institutional collaboration, requires further exploration (WP # 2.62, p. 27).
In fact, in the light of the developments outlined above, and given their pertinence to issues raised in the White Paper, it would be appropriate, if not urgent, to take forward the suggestion in the White Paper for an investigation into the viability of establishing a national framework for facilitating distance education and resource-based learning, including and audit of existing provision - both public and private, in terms of quality, cost-efficiency and effectiveness (WP # 2.64, p.27).
Short-cycle Teaching Programmes
The majority of institutions are expanding their provision of short-cycle teaching programmes. However institutions have interpreted these programmes in different ways. These include; community outreach programmes; short courses for the public and private sector in order to raise additional revenue while responding to market needs; and credit bearing courses for articulation into higher education. Attention will need to be given to the careful definition of short-cycle programmes and their implications in the development of a new funding formula.
4.2.1 Student Equity Students: Race and Equity
The demographic composition of student body is undergoing major changes and is beginning to more closely resemble the demographic realities of the broader society. In terms of the planned enrolments, the overall proportion of black students will increase from 69% in 1997 to 73% in 2001. In the universities, the proportion of black students has increased from 56% in 1993 to 64% in 1997 and is planned to be 69% in 2001. The corresponding figure for technikons is 48% in 1993, 76% in 1997 and 79% in 2001 (cf Graph 6).
More specifically, in the case of African students, their overall proportion has increased from 41% in 1993 to 57% in 1997 and is planned to be 60% in 2001. The growth of African students is primarily taking place in the HAUs and the HWTs. If the planned increases are realised, the African student enrolments in the HAUs would have increased from 5 000 in 1993 to 28 000 in 1997 and 65 000 in 2001. The corresponding increase in the HWTs is 11 000 in 1993, 38 000 in 1997 and 71 000 in 2001 (cf Graph 7).
There are four factors that should be highlighted in relation to the growth of black enrolments. First, in the case of the HAUs, a large part of the growth has been in distance education and part-time programmes. This clearly suggests, as indicated above, that there is a market for such programmes, especially for students who do not have access to ready sources of finance.
Second, the growth of black enrolments in the HAUs suggests that the role of language as a barrier to access is being successfully addressed. In most cases, the HAUs have adopted a combination of a dual and parallel-medium language policy.
Third, the overall changes in demographic composition do not necessarily translate into the demographic composition of individual institutions reflecting the demographic realities of the broader society. Although this is clearly changing, currently in the HWIs (excluding distance and part-time students), the proportion of black students ranges from about 15% at the low end to about 65% at the high end. In certain instances black students are largely located in distance programmes or satellite campuses, with little shift in the demographics of the main campus.
Fourth, the projections for 2001 tend to be based on historical growth rates rather than clearly defined targets. The setting of targets is important as it establishes benchmarks against which to measure progress. It also requires the development of strategies to enable the achievement of the targets. In this regard it should be pointed out that although institutions have not set targets, they have nevertheless developed a range of strategies and interventions to address the difficulties they face in recruiting students who are inadequately prepared for higher education. These include, inter-alia, programmes to improve the quality of maths and science at schools, alternative admissions programmes and routes, such as bridging programmes, extended curricula and foundation programmes and academic and student support programmes.
The growth in black students numbers has been accompanied by a decline in white student enrolments which have fallen from 229 000 in 1993 to 187 000 in 1997 and will fall marginally to 186 000 in 2001 (cf Graph 8). It seems that white students, influenced by perceptions of increased instability and falling standards, are moving into private higher education institutions. In addition this decrease may also be attributed to emigration. This has implications for the financial stability of the higher education system as white students represent a stable core of fee-paying students and may require a reassessment of the NSFAS projections that were developed by the Department in the course of 1998. Students: Gender and Equity
In terms of overall enrolments, gender equity was reached in 1997. However, gender equity continues to remain a problem in certain fields of study, at postgraduate level and in technikons, where the proportion of female enrolments increased from 32% in 1993 to 42% in 1997 and is planned to remain at this level in 2001 (cf Graphs 9 & 10).
In general, far less emphasis has been placed in the institutional plans on gender equity than on racial equity. Only a few institutions have begun or plan to develop strategies or interventions to deal with the challenge of increasing the numbers of female students in fields and levels of study that they have traditionally not participated in. In addition, unlike in the case of racial equity, only a small number of institutions set targets in this regard. Students: Disability and Equity
While institutions were not requested to report on the level of participation of disabled students, it became apparent that although institutions were aware of this matter, little attention had been paid to the development of clear policies on disabled student participation.
There is limited participation of disabled students in the system. Some institutions have well-developed programmes and infrastructure in order to provide a supportive learning environment for disabled students. These programmes have been financed by a combination of institutional and donor funds. However, the expansion of disabled student enrolments will require substantial resources. In order to tackle this policy priority, attention needs to be given to regional and system-wide approaches.
4.2.2 Staff Equity
Although it has not been possible to undertake a detailed analysis of national trends because of the definitional difficulties discussed above, a comparative analysis of three regions - Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, suggests that employment equity remains a major problem with little progress made in the past few years (cf Graph 11). The majority of permanent academic and professional staff remain white and men.
Extrapolating from the information for the three regions, it would be reasonable to assume that on average, women constitute about 30% of the academic and professional staff nationally. In the case of men, however, there are variations, as indicated, between the three regions. It can be assumed that these variations would also be found nationally. The variations can be explained by the different regional composition of higher education institutions, i.e. regions with a larger number of HDIs such as KwaZulu-Natal, have proportionately more black staff than regions with fewer HDIs.
In general, as with student equity, far less emphasis has been placed in the institutional plans on gender equity than on racial equity. As far as the latter is concerned, institutions have highlighted that the major problem that they face is their inability to compete in the labour market with the public and private sectors in terms of salaries and conditions of service.
There has however been an increase in the numbers of black staff at administrative and managerial levels. Some institutions indicated that they were having more success in changing the demographics of their institutional management as opposed to their academic staff.
A number of institutions have not developed employment equity plans and only a few have set specific race and gender targets. However, most institutions have indicated that they are in the process of developing such plans and are aware of the requirement to do so in the context of the Employment Equity Act. They have also identified potential strategies to underpin their plans. These include, early voluntary retirement schemes; contract appointments; staff and management development programmes; staff postgraduate study opportunites - both locally and abroad, to enable staff to enhance their qualifications; encouraging post graduate students to pursue academic careers through the provision of scholarships and the establishment of development posts and establishing employment equity officers.
4.3 Efficiency
The institutional plans suggest that institutions are in the early stages of tackling efficiency issues. This is indicated by the fact that a number of institutions did not address efficiency issues at all in their plans and the responses of those that did were in general unsatisfactory.
Examples, in certain cases, include an absence of proper financial reporting mechanisms as well as the level of student debt. While the level of student debt varies across the system, there are instances where debt levels have reached unacceptable proportions and mirrors overall institutional debt. Interestingly, institutions with students from similar socio economic backgrounds have completely different debt profiles. Those institutions with clear management systems and a comprehensive debt collection policy have managed to the control level of debt. These policies include, withholding results, not allowing students to register and regular communication with student and their families.
There are however a number of plans that outline a range of initiatives to improve efficiency and reduce costs such as the restructuring of administrative operations and academic departments, streamlining academic programmes to eliminate overlap and duplication, and the outsourcing of non-core services, in particular, catering, cleaning, maintenance and security services. What the plans do not do is indicate how these initiatives will improve efficiency or the performance indicators that will be used to measure success. More importantly, there is little or no indication of the relationship between efficiency measures and enhancements in the quality of the learning, teaching and research enterprise. In this respect, it is instructive that only a few institutional plans focused on the improvement of student success and throughput rates as a key element of efficiency.
In the absence of a clear linkage between the need for efficiency and the attainment of educational goals, there is a danger that efficiency measures will be narrowly driven by the need to cut costs irrespective of the broader educational implications. This can be illustrated by the fact that in the streamlining of academic programmes the first and obvious casualties are small and costly programmes that are under-subscribed. However, these programmes such as, for example, the languages, archaeology, religious studies, etc. may not be popular but are critical to the social, cultural, intellectual, and indeed economic, development of the broader society. While a plethora of such programmes cannot be sustained, it is important to ensure that they are available within the system as a whole. This requires that, at a minimum, before institutions close down uneconomic programmes, the decision needs to be informed by an assessment of the need and availability of such programmes at a regional and national level.
In warning against the potential dangers involved in undertaking efficiency measures, it is not being suggested that institutions are making uninformed and arbitrary decisions. On the contrary, the plans indicate that in many cases the restructuring and streamlining of academic departments and programmes has resulted in new and innovative approaches that would ensure the sustainability of a range of otherwise uneconomic programmes.
It seems clear that, aside from the fact that most institutions have only recently begun to address efficiency issues, the inadequate analysis in the institutional plans is also in part the product of a lack of clarity in the planning guidelines. This will have to be addressed and greater guidance provided to institutions to enable them to respond appropriately
4.4 Inter-Institutional Co-operation
It appears that many institutions have responded to the need for inter-institutional collaboration by establishing a plethora of linkages with international institutions. Beyond staff development, the impact of these relationships on the core activities of institutions is unclear.
The White Paper encourages inter-institutional collaboration through the development of regional consortia as a basis for reducing programme duplication and overlap, building academic and administrative capacity and enhancing responsiveness to regional and national needs. It further argues that regional collaboration, by transcending the historical divides in the system, would lay the basis for new institutional and organisational forms (WP #2.43 & 2.44, p.24). It is clear from the institutional plans and the visits that the White Paper's vision of regional collaboration remains a hazy mirage in the distance.
The main mechanism for inter-institutional co-operation have been the regional consortiums - five of which have now been established. However, the role and function of the regional consortia has largely been limited to the co-ordination and management of infrastructural projects such as a regional applications service, electronic library systems, and the purchasing and sharing of expensive teaching and research equipment. There have, however, only been a few instances of institutions jointly developing and teaching academic programmes or agreeing to avoid overlap and duplication. Furthermore, no attempt has been made at developing regional plans or at least subjecting institutional plans to regional scrutiny. If anything, jump-starting the planning process has given rise to unmitigated competition, with institutions positioning themselves in anticipation of bidding for ever scarcer resources. The extent of this competition is illustrated by the fact that institutions have not shared and discussed their plans within the regional consortia and are reluctant to make their plans public.
Although all institutions claim to support the principle of regional collaboration, it is clear that institutional identities run deep. This is further compounded by the historical divides that are a legacy of apartheid. The villain in the script is always the institution down the road or across the fence whose commitment to inter-institutional collaboration is in doubt or questionable. This suggests, as most institutions have indicated, that unless there is more direct intervention and a stronger message communicated on regional and inter-institutional co-operation by the Department, it will not make any real headway.
5. Conclusion
The conclusion of the first phase of the planing process represents an important milestone in the transformation of the higher education. It is the first step in the beginning of the dialogue and partnership between the Department and higher education institutions that would lead to a more accountable and responsive higher education system.
The first phase of the planning process has also confirmed the validity of the incremental approach to planning. In fact, given the uneveness of the plans and the weaknesses and lack of capacity highlighted above, it may be necessary to review the timeframe for the implementation of the full planning framework. This is necessary to enable the weaknesses identified to be addressed before institutions are asked to report on additional elements of the planning framework. This will be considered by the Department and the advice of the Council on Higher Education sought before guidelines for the next phase are finalised.
National and Institutional Planning Requirements (June 1998)
"Size and shape:
What contribution does the institution make to the achievement of national targets for student participation rates, for proportions of undergraduate and postgraduate student enrolments, for student enrolments by major field of study, for proportions of contact and distance education enrolments and for increased enrolments in science, engineering and technology programmes? Will the institution be able to expand its offering of short-cycle teaching programmes?
Equity: What contribution does the institution make to the achievement of national student input and output equity targets? What are its contributions towards the achievement of national staff equity targets?
Efficiency: What steps will the institution take to reduce overhead costs and average costs per student? What will it do to reduce overlap and duplication in academic programmes? How will it enhance its student success and throughput rates? What innovative education delivery models is it planning to introduce?
Inter-institutional co-operation: What steps will the institution take to increase co-operation with other higher education institutions? How is the institution planning to share human and physical resources with other higher education institutions in its geographical region? Will it offer more academic programmes co-operatively with other higher education institutions? What inter-institutional research projects is the institution planning to introduce?
Planned student enrolments: What are the head count totals of students by gender, population group and intended major is the institution planning to enrol in the years 1999, 2000 and 2001? What totals of full-time equivalent students by CESM category and level is it planning to enrol in the years 1999, 2000 and 2001?" (NIHEPR, pp. 10-11)
Table 1 Changes in fields of specialisation: Actual 1997 compared to planned 2001 (thousands)
Table 2 Proportions of undergraduates to postgraduates in head count enrolments
Graph 1 University and technikon head count Enrolments (Thousands)
Graph 2 University and technikon head count enrolment distribution
Graph 3 Head count enrolments (thousands)
Graph 4 Distribution of enrolments across sectors
Graph 5 Shape of system: Percentage head count enrolments in humanities and science and technology
Graph 6 African, Coloured, Indian and White students as a percentage of total enrolments
Graph 7 African students in head count enrolments (thousands)
Graph 8 White students in head count enrolments (thousands)
Graph 9 Female students as a percentage of head count enrolments
Graph 10 Female students as a percentage of head count enrolments
Graph 11 Some equity issues: Students and staff





+ 2 (2%)

- 1 (6%)

HWU (Afrik)

+ 37 (60%)

+ 3 (10%)

HWU (Eng)

+ 5 (15%)

+ 2 (10%)


- 5 (5%)

+ 1 (8%)

University total

+ 39 (13%)

+ 5 (6%)


+ 6 (20%)

- 3 (13%)


+ 24 (57%)

+ 10% (27%)


+ 3 (4%)

+ 7 (100%)

Technikon total

+ 33 (22%)

+ 14 (20%)


+ 72 (16%)

+ 19 (13%)











HWU (Afrik)




HWU (Eng)








Subtotal for Universities
















Subtotal for Technikons




Overall Total






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