110000 new applicants after Zuma’s education call

Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor

An extra 110 000 students have applied for financial aid after former president Jacob Zuma announced free higher education for poor and working-class students in December.

This was disclosed at a pre-Budget Vote briefing held by Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday. Assessing the past three years, Pandor said they were characterised by events that would have a fundamental impact on the post-school education and training sector.

She said there were three features of society she regarded as a challenge to the sector.

The first was the #feesmustfall and decolonisation of higher education protests. The second was the continuing urgent imperative for the production of skilled human resources who were able to play a role in knowledge creation in different spheres of human endeavour and to contribute to inclusive economic growth.

“The third feature is the world’s increasing focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its implications for business and education and other sectors. We’re in the age of the pervasive influence of emerging technologies and artificial intelligence and need responsive skills and development research focus and investment to benefit fully. I intend to create a multi-stakeholder task team to advise us on how we should take up opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

At yesterday’s Parliamentary briefing, it was also disclosed that a total of 420000 applications, which is 110000 more than the previous year, have been received.

Pandor said the result of the government introduction of fully subsidised free higher education for poor and working-class students, 84 000 first time entry university students were expected to be fully funded. Some 190000 students in all other areas of study will also be funded.

“This massive injection of student funding support under the new DHET bursary scheme is also combined with a Government commitment to increase the core funding for universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges to 1% of GDP over a five-year period.”

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) CEO Steven Zwane, said at the briefing said the December announcement has had an effect.

NSFAS was ascertaining that the data supplied with applications for financial aid actually met then criteria for payment.

“We are in position now to close that particular gap. We have set a deadline by the end of this month everybody should have been paid,” Zwane said.

Pandor said that the DHET 2018 Budget was R89.9bn, of which the major components were R38.6bn for university transfers, R20.5bn for NSFAS, R16.9bn for skills development and R10.7bn for TVET colleges.

Pandor said over the medium expenditure framework the combined additional funding for the post-school system would amount to R67bn, of which R33bn with the additional allocation to NSFAS for the introduction of the new bursary scheme for first-time students in universities and R10.3bn for TVET bursaries.

Plans for student housing needs Pandor said would be a long-term one to provide 300000 new beds for students at institutions in the post-school education and training section over the next 10 years.

She said R934m of the Budget would go to what she termed university capacity building at all of South Africa’s 26 universities. This would be for student development, enhancing student success, developing staff particularly in teaching, research, curriculum development,
and leadership and management.