Two new universities to open next year

2013-05-08 16:10

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Two new universities earmarked for Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape will open their doors next year, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has said.

“Much preparatory work has been done and I now expect to establish the two institutions as legal entities in the next month. R2.1 billion has been earmarked for the development of the universities over the next three years,” Nzimande said in his budget vote speech in the National Assembly today.

The two new universities, combined with an expansion of Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, are set to deal with growing enrolments at higher-learning institutions.

University enrolments went up by 12% from 837 779 in 2009 to 938 200 in 2011.

“We are chasing the 1 million mark and aim to increase the total enrolments to 1.62 million by 2030,” said Nzimande.

The number of students who graduated rose by 11% during the same period.

“The numbers of post-graduates increased at a higher rate than the overall graduation rate, which is important because it is on post-graduates that we depend for our future academics, researchers, and other leaders in knowledge-intensive professions.”

Nzimande said about 25% more students graduated with master’s degrees, while those with doctorates grew by 15%, from 1 373 in 2009 to 1 576 in 2011.

“In my view, though, this is quite insufficient to meet our needs and it is not really comparable to other leading developing countries, let alone developed ones.”

In a bid to significantly increase the number of academics with doctorates, Nzimande was exploring sending students abroad to further their studies.

An interministerial committee report on reviewing the funding of universities was complete.

Nzimande said a revised funding framework was being worked on.

The minister later attacked critics who claimed his decision to place various universities under administration was undermining academic independence.

“Although our public university system as a whole is relatively stable, I have been compelled to take action in some institutions to ensure their integrity and proper functioning in the face of corruption or maladministration,” he said.

In the past few years, the Vaal, Tshwane, and Central Universities of Technology, Walter Sisulu University, and the University of Zululand were placed under administration.

Nzimande said: “I refuse to be intimidated by those who say this violates university autonomy, but ignore the need for universities to be publicly accountable.”

On FET colleges, he said moves were afoot to rename the institutions Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges soon.

“For the 2012 academic year, we set a target of 550 000 student headcount enrolments. However, a total of 657 690 was achieved, representing an increase of 54% over the preceding year,” he said.

To expand enrolments at the colleges, an allocation of R6.3 billion would be made available over the next three years.

“This will enable us to ensure greater access to education and training opportunities for 702 430 poor and academically capable young people over the MTEF (medium-term expenditure framework) period,” said Nzimande.

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