More money for higher education - Habib

Johannesburg - The higher education sector is at risk due to lack of funding, the University of Witwatersrand said on Wednesday.

"The amount of funding available for students wanting to pursue tertiary education is inadequate and well below that of international norms in similar developing countries," vice chancellor and principal, Professor Adam Habib said in a statement.

"The sector is at risk due to lack of substantial funding from the state and other societal actors."

The demand for financial aid outstripped the money available, he said.

This was despite funds allocated by government to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) having quadrupled over the last five years to R9.5bn, said Habib.

"There is definitely a need for more financial aid for students throughout the country and rather than directing misguided anger towards universities, we should be approaching NSFAS, government and other sectors of society to collectively invest in developing the high level skills that our country and continent desperately require."

For 2015, Wits has been allocated R179m by NSFAS. Of this R152m has been offered to approximately 2 090 returning and 330 first-year students.

"It is anticipated that by the completion of registration in February, Wits would have offered NSFAS funding to about 450 additional students," Habib said.

"In total, NSFAS packages will be allocated to about 2 870 students at Wits this year."

Last year, Wits administered about R828m in student funding, which they got from various internal and external sources, including the NSFAS, bursaries, scholarships, government, and the private sector.

"The university must also stress that it informed students several times last year that they should prepare to pay their fees should there be insufficient funding from NSFAS."

He said other issues at the institution were that many students did not apply, or did not apply on time.

Others submitted incomplete information which resulted in their applications not being processed timeously. The university would continue processing NSFAS applications during registration over the next few weeks, said Habib.

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