Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has identified short to medium term, and long term plans, as part of the roadmap, to transform post-school education and training.
Addressing the National Assembly on the current university situation, Minister Nzimande said in the short term, government has announced a number of interventions to assist students who come from poor and middle class families, and for the first time in the history of post-school education, the so-called “missing middle”.
All students from “missing middle” families will experience a no fee increase in the 2017 academic year. “This means it is no fee increment in 2017 for this category of students. This will benefit more than 75% of university and college students, and in some institutions, more than 90% of students will benefit,” said Minister Nzimande.
“We have also gone further and made arrangements through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students as an upfront payment to universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in January each year.
“Therefore, NSFAS qualifying students will not pay any registration or upfront fees in 2017. Students from households with an annual family income of up to R600 000, i.e. the ‘missing middle’ will be allowed to register without paying any upfront or registration fees in 2017,” Minister Nzimande said.
He said government has also addressed the issues of historical debt of students, and all NSFAS qualifying students who are registered in 2016, having historical student debt with institutions of higher education, will be allowed to register in 2017.
“All universities will ensure that ‘missing middle’ students who have historical student debt are not excluded on the basis of debt and will also be allowed to register in 2017.
“We also wish to draw to the attention of students who are still studying or are in their first year of employment, that NSFAS will only collect debt from all graduates a year after they finished their studies.”
Long term plan
For the long term, Minister Nzimande said the department has recently received a report from the Chairperson of the NSFAS Board, Sizwe Nxasana, on the development of support and funding model for poor and “missing middle” students.
He said the report will go a long way in not only addressing the funding problems by poor and “missing middle” students, but also in addressing among other challenges the NSFAS model itself.
“The report also received the backing from a range of stakeholders including business leaders who are part of the solution and will improve the partnership between government, the private sector and higher education institutions.”
The department is processing the report and will be presented to Cabinet for consideration and decision.
Draft Policy, Revised Funding Framework for Universities
Meanwhile, Minister Nzimande said the department is processing a draft Policy and Revised Funding Framework for Universities, which emanated from the recommendations of the report from the Ministerial Committee on the Review of the Funding of Universities, which was led by the now Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The report reviews the experiences of six years of partial and full implementation of the current funding framework for universities. It also analyses the current funding framework to determine whether it has functioned effectively in achieving the goals set for it at its inception.
Commission of Inquiry
The Minister said the Commission of Inquiry established by President Jacob Zuma to inquire into, report on and make recommendations on the feasibility of a fee free higher education and training, continues to do its work and has undertaken to release its preliminary report in November 2016.
“We call on all stakeholders to provide support to enable the Commission to speedily conclude its work so that it can contribute to finding long-term solutions.” – SAnews.gov.za