More places for matriculants - Blade
Pretoria - There will be greater access to tertiary education institutions, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande announced in Pretoria on Monday.
Fifty-six percent more places were available at tertiary education institutions. A total of 288 487 spaces would be available to the 2010 matriculants, an increase of 103 940.
Of these approximately 165 000 were places for first-year students, an increase of 15 000 over the previous year.
The higher education and training department's deputy director general of planning and development Feroz Patel said the department expected that of these first-year positions, about 87 000 would be filled by the 2010 matriculants.
The announcement followed the increase in the number of matriculants who met the minimum requirements for admission to Bachelor degree studies to 126 371. In 2009 there were 109 697 who met the minimum requirements.
The number of spaces at Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges had also been increased by 60 000, with the department announcing there would be 139 587 places for students wishing to enrol.
Nzimande also elaborated on funding for final year undergraduate students announced by President Jacob Zuma on Saturday at the African National Congress's 99th anniversary celebrations in Polokwane.
Students who qualified for financial assistance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would see the loan portion of their final year studies converted to a bursary, which would not need to be repaid if they graduated.
"This will encourage final year students to focus on their studies. This model will be phased in over the next few years to include students in earlier years of studies," he said, adding that currently NSFAS covered on average only 40% of poor students' needs.
"We are calling on the students to work hard. This is not a free ride," he said.
Nzimande said the department wanted to encourage matriculants to consider other forms of education, especially in sectors where there was a shortage of skills.
"We need artisans. We are also incentivising attendance at colleges."
Students in FET colleges who qualified for financial aid would be exempted completely from paying academic fees in 2011.
He said the department had been working on expanding capacity at FET colleges across the country, as well as improving the quality of education.
Nzimande said many pupils received very poor career guidance before they had to decide what to study, which contributed to the high drop-out rate at tertiary institutions.
The department had entered into an agreement with the national broadcaster to provide advice and information on career choices available to pupils.
Information on careers can be obtained from www.careerhelp.org.za, or by calling the career advice helpline on 0860 111 673.
Information on students receiving financial assistance from the NSFAS could be obtained by visiting www.nsfas.co.za.