2024 registration and enrolment; Certification backlog in the TVET and CET colleges; DHET Q1-3 2023/24 Performance; Establishment of new universities; with Deputy Minister

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

28 February 2024
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science, and Technology convened to receive updates on several key matters. These included the status of registrations and the smooth commencement of the 2024 academic year, progress on the establishment of new universities in Ekurhuleni and Hammanskraal, and an overview of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) financial and general performance for the first three quarters of the financial year.

During the meeting, Committee Members expressed concerns about conflicting reports from students regarding the registration process and unresolved issues. Queries were also raised about the specific courses to be offered at the new universities, which remained unanswered at the meeting's conclusion.

Deputy Minister Buti Manamela reported that TVET colleges, community colleges, and most other universities had begun the academic year. The Department was actively addressing challenges, including direct engagement with students. He highlighted the importance of feedback from the Committee in shaping the development of the new universities in Hammanskraal and Ekurhuleni, guiding the project's progress.

A significant part of the discussion focused on accommodation and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The Committee proposed launching a forensic investigation into university accommodation. NSFAS was given a deadline to determine who would pay students' allowances, and efforts to terminate FinTech relationships were in progress.

Meeting report

Chairperson Opening Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed all in attendance and started the proceedings for the meeting.

The Chairperson said that students reported that they have not been receiving adequate accommodation and food and that the Department has not yet sorted some of these issues out. The case of Buffalo City College was highlighted where students were assigned unsatisfactory accommodation. The Chairperson thus asked that the Department's current interventions on these matters be addressed.

The Department had ensured the Members of the Committee that those who are awaiting NSFAS outcomes will be allowed to register in the interim, however, this has not been the case as reported from the ground to various Committee Members. The Chairperson stated that she hoped the Department's presentation on the status of registration would ease the minds of the Committee and provide insight into these allegations.

During oversight visits conducted by the Committee, a lack of maintenance of residences was noted as a great concern. There are many universities with strong, solid infrastructure but are not receiving adequate maintenance; including maintenance that falls under the supervision of local governments.

The Chairperson also noted the issue of a lack of governance in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Many of these colleges did not have Principals and Councils in place, creating considerable instability within these colleges. She expressed her hopes that the Department would thoroughly guide members of the Committee through the progress of these processes during its presentation.

Opening remarks by the Deputy Minister
The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, Buti Manamela, welcomed everyone in attendance and he noted the issues that the Chairperson had raised.

The Deputy Minister noted that the TVET colleges and community colleges have both begun their academic year, as have the majority of other universities. Where challenges have been raised, the Department has been quick to respond. The Department has spent much time on the ground with students to respond to students as swiftly as possible.

The Deputy Minister stated that the feedback received by the Committee will provide insight into the new universities in Hammanskraal and Ekurhuleni and guide the project as it develops.

DHET Briefing: TVET Registrations
Following the Deputy Minister's remarks, Mr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), highlighted the significant progress achieved in the sixth administration of government. He emphasised that the Department's presentation would provide an honest account of both achievements and challenges during the beginning of the 2024 academic year. Mr. Sishi encouraged Deputy Directors-General to base their presentations on the latest data available to the Department.

The presentation would be able to provide Members with oversight of the certification processes within universities and TVET colleges. All of these updates should provide Committee Members with sufficient information on the status of the success of this registration process and the remaining issues. This should also provide Committee Members with an idea of how many students have been successfully funded and how many students remain unfunded for the 2024 academic year.

Mr Sishi also discussed budget allocations and their justifications, which would be elaborated on further in the presentation. The Committee's oversight visits highlighted significant vacancies within the Department, which Mr Sishi confirmed have all been advertised. The recruitment process has prioritised Principals of TVET colleges, resulting in the filling of many vacancies with others still in progress. So far, 365 appointments have been finalised, 170 individuals have been shortlisted, 101 have been recommended for appointment, and 34 interviews scheduled. Another 34 posts, including some within the National Skills Fund (NSF), are yet to be advertised. Mr Sishi announced an 8% increase in university student enrollments compared to the 2018 academic year, although TVET colleges have not seen the same growth. This disparity will continue to be addressed as all sectors of higher education and training are experiencing growth.

Mr Sishi mentioned the completed institutions by the Department, including Midlands TVET College's Aliwal North campus, Waterberg TVET College's Thabazimbi campus, and Ingwe TVET College's Ngqungqushe campus, among others. He stated that these expansions should be noted alongside the new campuses discussed in the meeting. The Director-General also indicated that the construction designs for these universities should be approved by August 2024, a topic to be further elaborated on during the presentation.

The Chairperson then confirmed that the presentation regarding university registrations for the start of the 2024 academic year should be considered read, with more detail to follow regarding the establishment of the two new universities.

See attached for full presentation

Presentation on the Financial and Non-Financial Performance 2023/24 (Q1-Q3)
Mr Sishi introduced the presentation, which was then elaborated on by Mr Reineth Mgiba, Chief Director: Strategy and Planning, DHET, and Mr Lucian Kearns, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DHET. The presentation aimed to give the Committee an overview of the Department's performance, both financially and in other aspects, during the first three quarters of the financial year.

In the 2023/24 financial year, 46% of the 110 set targets were at the institutional level, while 54% were at the Programme level. Achievements across quarters varied, with 47% achieved in the first quarter, 60% in the second, and 49% in the third, leaving 74 targets for the fourth quarter. University enrollment reached 1,177,763 students, an 8% increase from 2018. However, TVET college enrollment decreased by 19% to 530 328 students, and Community Education and Training (CET) college enrollments decreased by 17% to 124,638. NSFAS funding for university students exceeded the target at 126%, but only 77% of TVET students received support, down 33% from 2018.

Department Achievements in 2023/2024 Financial Year:
- Implemented phase one of the Comprehensive Student Funding Model.
- Introduced the National Plan for Post-School Education and Training (NPPSET).
- Reviewed the Master Skills Plan.
- Hosted the BRICS Seminar covering topics on Education and Training agenda and the Think Tank Council.
- Signed an amendment to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

The financial reports for the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year showed a total allocation of R133.8 billion. This allocation was broken down as follows: administration received R517.000, planning and policy strategy received R1.76 million, university education received R 92.64 million, the TVET sector received R12.76 million, skills development received R23.46 million, and community education and training received R2.67 million. Operational expenditure was reported to be 2.2% lower than the previous year's first quarter. The presentation also detailed transfer expenditures according to the designated programme.

Q2 Comments
-Spending in the second quarter increased by 57% compared to the previous financial year.
-Spending on operational expenditure increased from 11.6% to 28.8%.
-All the block grant subsidy payments to universities, TVET colleges, CET colleges and public entities were reported as handling transfer payments on schedule.
-The presentation accounted for transfer expenditures in detail per programme.

Q3 Comments
-The adjusted estimates for the 2024 allocation were decreased by 2.7% from R110 billion to R107 billion.
-Direct charges were decreased by 1.4% from R23 billion to R 22 billion.
-Administration received a total allocation of R469 000, planning, policy and strategy received R1.51 million, university education received R90 million, TVET colleges received R12.6 million, skills development received R23 million and community education and training received R2.85 million.
-Spending during quarter three increased by 30% from the previous financial year.
-Spending on operational expenditure increased from 28.8% to 66.9%.
-The presentation outlined the detailing of allocation and expenditure per programme.

See attached for full presentation

Update on the feasibility studies report into the establishment of universities Policing and Crime Detection in Hammanskraal and Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni
The presentation covered phase one feasibility studies for establishing two new universities, as outlined by Mr Bhekithemba Mlambo, Chief Director: Infrastructure and Projects, DHET. These universities were announced in 2020: one for Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni and one for Policing and Crime Detection in Hammanskraal. The feasibility studies, completed in September 2022, revealed that the University of Science and Innovation's site is accessible, centrally located, and suitable for future expansion. It will offer qualifications from higher certificates to doctoral studies in Philosophy in Police Science. Courses will include green-energy technologies, technology-driven agro-processing, air traffic control, aeronautical studies, Astro engineering, SMART manufacturing, and artificial intelligence. The University of Policing and Crime Detection plans to grow to 2 700 students and 276 staff over ten years, requiring a minimum of R400 million in grant funding over 12 years and trading at a deficit for the first ten years. The University of Science and Innovation plans to grow to 2 000 students and 180 staff over ten years, needing a minimum of R420 million in grant funding over nine years and trading at a deficit for the first five years. The first phase has been submitted to Cabinet, emphasising the need for financial security to approve the project's commencement. Phase two will outline academic, financing, governance, administration, and infrastructure specifics.

See attached for full presentation

The Chairperson initiated the discussion by raising concerns about placement testing during enrollment processes. She asked if placement testing would consider students' interests and future career paths, as some students might be initially enrolled in courses that do not align with their goals. Additionally, the Chairperson inquired about the Department's assessment of increased capacity in the TVET sector, given the high volume of applications and significantly low enrollments, highlighting these statistics as worrisome.

The Chairperson brought up the benchmarking done by the portfolio committee in Switzerland, where students in technical vocational training were trained and tested practically within the workspace. These interventions should be considered to respond to the limited capacity of TVET colleges. Has this conversation extended to the Department of Basic Education to better prepare students with technical skills for post-school technical training?

The presentation confirmed that there was no existing certification backlog. The Chairperson confirmed that the Portfolio Committee was receiving conflicting reports from students. The long-term goal is to reach day zero of certification backlogs within TVET colleges, and should this report be accurate, members of the Department and the Committee alike should note this success.

The Chairperson expressed appreciation for the establishment of the University of Policing and Crime Detection, emphasising its significance given the prevalent issues of misconduct among police in South Africa. She suggested that training at this university should include sensitivity training, particularly focusing on appropriate conduct towards women in South Africa.

The Chairperson briefly expressed her deep concerns regarding the decision not to employ mathematics lecturers within CET colleges due to the budget cuts. She noted that the Department confirmed that the pilot accommodation project within universities would be discontinued. Does this also extend to TVET colleges? NSFAS has been unable to effectively answer questions about the viability of students’ concerns regarding the pilot accommodation.

The Chairperson referenced slides from the update on registrations presentation. Some of the concerns included the lack of clarity on whether some of the issues raised by students were resolved despite the Department’s report that the strikes and protests had ended, and whether universities were capacitated to be directly dispersing allowances to NSFAS students as of 29 February as reported in the presentation.

The presentation on the new universities in Ekurhuleni and Hammanskraal did not manage to specifically outline the courses that would be available within these institutions, only the certifications. Some courses such as anthropology and gender studies, may prove important despite not being prioritised within the courses.

The Chairperson then opened the floor for the rest of the Committee to pose their questions to the Department regarding the three presentations received.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) noted that the CET budget allocation was increased. What informed this increase? Furthermore, what will be most impacted by budget cuts? How many TVET colleges lost their allocated Post Provisioning Norms (PPN) funds? Which colleges have successfully concluded PPN processes? Does the PPN include the security personnel of the college?

Regarding crime within universities and TVET colleges, who is responsible for conducting criminal investigations? Which institutions have not complied with the outlined reporting processes? Lastly, which institutions have not yet submitted their progress reports for the first three quarters and which of these are repeat offenders?

Mr K Pillay (ANC) expressed gratitude to the Department for the presentation and raised several questions. Firstly, he inquired about the recourse available to students when approved NSFAS funding encounters delays and inadequate responses from universities. Secondly, regarding the pilot accommodation project, he emphasised that it should not remain a pilot for more than a year due to prolonged processes. Thirdly, he asked for information on institutions that have not complied with reporting requirements, questioning whether these are the same institutions from the previous financial year and whether non-compliance is due to the burden of reporting requirements.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) noted comments made by the Chairperson on the inadequacies of the relationship that exists between NSFAS and universities. There is a reported tendency for these entities to shift blame between one another and avoid problem-solving. There are cases where students were funded according to the NSFAS student and monies were allocated to the university to cover the tuition and allowances of this particular student and the student has reported that they have not received any money throughout the academic year. Where has this money gone in this case? The Department should sit down with Universities South Africa (USAf) and NSFAS to ensure this issue no longer continues. The relationship that the Director-General has boasted about with the Hawks has not effectively been able to interrupt the patterns of corruption within universities and colleges.

This collusion has also negatively impacted the accommodation of students. In the Western Cape, universities and colleges have confirmed that no residences cost under R50 000, which has effectively excluded all NSFAS students from acquiring accommodation within the Western Cape. Many of the conditions within these universities remain poor, and NSFAS should check the justification for these inflated prices.

Mr Letsie asked the Acting CFO to confirm whether the statement within his financial report stating that all invoices were paid within the 30 days occurred in all three quarters.

The National Skills Fund (NSF) plays an integral role in the upskilling of students. It is important to reskill and train students according to the needs of the economy and to employ unemployed youth. Why is this process so convoluted, and why has this not been entirely successful yet? What are the particular issues that have been identified that have caused specific delays and issues in training these students effectively?

Mr Letsie asked what arguments were made to name the University of Policing and Crime Detection a fully-fledged university as opposed to a training college. Further, have the phase two feasibility studies commenced at this point?

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) greeted members in the meeting and welcomed the presentations given during this meeting. She accused the Department, however, of being reactive as opposed to proactive. This is shown in the occurrence of protests despite foresight of these issues. As formerly mentioned by the Chairperson, the Central Application Clearing House (CACH) system should be available in multiple languages to cater to the needs of students coming from a variety of backgrounds.

CET branches have successfully cleared the backlog, which is commendable. However, how soon will the repurposing of government infrastructure and public works commence? Many CET branches do not yet have proper infrastructure.

There was a report that the audits found issues with non-compliance with the requirements regarding block-owned businesses and persons with disabilities. This is worrying and these targets should be met and surpassed.

Ms Mananiso also asked questions about NSFAS. How many people are awaiting evaluation and outcomes at this point? Some students have received provisional funding with no final outcome and these students have not been able to buy their books, receive allowances, and register in some cases. There is a need to respond using the competition commission in the case of accommodation.

Some of the issues of the skills fund were brought up during the presentations. The Department should be intervening in exit opportunities. Where students have been successful in CET and TVET colleges, there should be testimonials, certification, and constant tracking of these students to ensure post-training work opportunities. With that, she concluded her comments and questions.

The Chairperson confirmed that the Members have contributed largely to the form of comments to the conversation. These universities in the future should be capacitated to deal with some of these issues directly. She then handed over to the Director General to lead his team in answering the questions.
Mr Sishi confirmed that he was proud of the work done by the Department thus far, claiming that they had done well consistently up until this point. The work done to establish two new universities has been a recent success, and the Department is working closely with the national treasury to ensure the possibility of this project.

To answer some of the questions posed about NSFAS, Mr Sishi noted that there would need to be enough time to go through all the intricacies sufficiently. NSFAS was given a deadline for the previous week to state who exactly will be paying the students their allowances. The Chairperson confirmed that there should be an interim establishment in the transition away from FinTech. Upfront payments have been made to universities so that they would be able to disperse students their allowances timeously. This is merely a transitional measure and Mr Sishi confirmed that allowances will be dispersed on that day. The process of terminating the relationship with these FinTech’s has been confirmed to be underway. Further, USAf has agreed to provide temporary aid during this period.

Incidents at UKZN and DUT were brought to the attention of the Director General and members of his team were sent to engage directly with these universities, both which confirmed their commitment to ensuring that allowances would be paid directly by themselves.

Placement tests, as confirmed by Mr Sishi, stated that the role of the Department was to support the work of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in establishing a three-stream curriculum. A part of this support was to ensure that issues would not move freely within these streams.

Mr Sishi expressed his pride over the progress made in the lack of backlog in certification processes. The goal, however, moving forward is to ensure that this issue does not occur again. There continues to be the difference between subject certification and full certification, and this is an IT systems policy that can be changed at the policy level.

The enrolment data from CET colleges will be made available at a later stage. The lack of this information in this presentation is due to the manner of administration within the enrollment processes. This will be available to the Department by the end of March. This administrative system is not fixed and can be rethought. Budget cuts within the CET sector are informed by a list of no-go areas within the sector as provided to the national treasury by the Department. These budget cuts remain to be closely monitored by the Department.

Mr Sishi assured the Chairperson that the Committee would receive a full report on the feasibility study. Furthermore, to answer questions posed on this topic, Mr Sishi explained the choice to create a fully-fledged university in the case of the University of Policing and Crime Detection. This choice was made after the policy pointed out that there was no need for an interim training project as there were existing institutions to handle this.

Mr Sishi also noted the comments made by other Members’ contributions, including the concerns raised by Ms Mananiso on the need to focus on developing and focusing on the commitments made to support black-owned businesses and persons with disabilities.

Mr Sam Zungu, Deputy Director-General: TVET Colleges, DHET, greeted the Department members and the portfolio committee present. He expressed gratitude to Mr Sishi for clarifying the certification issues within TVET colleges, including specific cases like the Buffalo City Campus. Mr Zungu mentioned that all student accommodation beds should be allocated by the end of the week. Additionally, he informed the Committee that classes at the Lovedale campus had resumed after protests disrupted the schedule. Many of the issues have been resolved, although some are long-term challenges.

In filling Principal vacancies, the Department has been privy to a more updated report on the progress made. In the Eastern Cape, where there were six reported vacancies, five interviews occurred; in one case, shortlisting must be finalised. This should be concluded by the end of May and all of the vacancies nationwide have been advertised. There was a detailed report available which provided insight into the filling of Deputy-Principal positions. He assured the Chairperson that both of these reports would be made available to the portfolio committee in writing.

Mr Zungu also remarked on the significant increase in applications to TVET colleges this year. While this was discussed as a challenge in the meeting, it should also be viewed positively. When the TVET sector was initially established, there was minimal talk and excitement surrounding this form of higher education. Now, the sector has seen substantial growth in interest. Mr Zungu acknowledged that it is up to himself, his team, and the Department as a whole to devise strategies to accommodate this impressive demand within the system.

Ms Thembisa Futshane, Deputy Director-General: CET sector, DHET, introduced herself to the Committee and provided an overview of developments within the Community Education and Training sector. She mentioned that the enrollment data provided to the Committee is preliminary. This data will later be supplemented with predictive data and projections, which will not be finalised until all courses within the CET sector have commenced, potentially as late as October 2024.

The Chairperson’s concerns regarding the inability to meet all the CET sector targets, including informal courses and non-academic enrolments: The branch is working closely with NGOs and other stakeholders to promote higher enrollments within the informal programmes.

Ms Marcia Socikwa, Deputy Director-General: University Education, DHET, addressed the concerns raised by Ms Mananiso on the lack of use of official languages within the curriculum. Ms Socikwa agreed that this was not a debatable topic, and that all languages should be made available. These efforts will continue to form part of the university campaign.

In the naming process of the two new universities, the Committee should note that the current names merely exist for referential purposes. The official naming process has not yet begun.

Ms Socikwa concurred with Mr Letsie's suggestion to launch a forensic investigation into university accommodation. The Department has committed to auditing the costs listed by universities for their accommodations. She also agreed with Mr Letsie's proposal to involve the Competition Commission, although the Department cannot confirm any progress on this front. Although this work is ongoing, NSFAS had approached the World Bank to oversee their input costs. This initiative has begun shedding light on inflated costs in both metro and non-metro areas.

Where the pilot accommodation project is concerned, NSFAS confirmed that this project should last one year and be concluded by January 2025.

Where protests and issues have arisen within the registration processes at universities across South Africa, Ms Socikwa agreed with the Chairperson that an interdict was really a last resort option to put a halt to university protests and strikes. All the issues have been closely monitored at the ground level, and an interdict was usually employed only as a final resort in all of these cases.

Ms Socikwa responded to the questions raised on the status of conversations and collaborations with the DBE. Universities have noted this issue, which must be discussed at a sector-wide level, including stakeholders and the Department. Those most affected by the late release of results remain the NSFAS-funded students. This remains a priority within the sector to ensure this late release does not occur.

Universities have expressed dissatisfaction with the CACH system. They have made very few offers through this system, citing potential reasons such as the newness of the system and the lack of centralised administration from the university's perspective. Additionally, feedback indicates that very few students who received offers through CACH actually accepted them, prompting the need to investigate the system's shortcomings.

Regarding technical subjects, Mr Mlambo said the technical reports have indicated growth and achievement rates above an average of 88%. There is notable interest and success in technical vocational pipelines at the basic education level. Unemployment is particularly affected by individuals without a grade 12 certificate, and it is further impacted by the overall economy. The challenge extends beyond skills development and is a nationwide issue, evident in the high number of engineering graduates working outside the engineering sector, which stands at 43%.

Mr Sishi addressed an unanswered question regarding the vacant Principal and Campus Manager positions. There are 14 available Principalship positions, with four in the final stages, four shortlisted, and six in the interview stages. Additionally, there are 18 Deputy Principal positions, with 16 in the final stages, 16 shortlisted, and nine undergoing interviews. Of the ten campus management vacancies, three are in the final stages and seven are currently in the interview process.
The Chairperson confirmed that any unanswered questions should be shared with the Department in writing and requested that the full feasibility report be made available to committee members.

The Chairperson commended the Department for their excellent work and the detailed responses provided to committee members, noting clear, steady, and consistent progress. She also extended her best wishes to Mr Zungu regarding a personal matter.

Due to time constraints, the Chairperson suggested that the Committee review the minutes and oversight report in the next meeting. With the general consensus of the Committee, the meeting was adjourned.


No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: