Cape Town – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says the wave of student protests experienced around the country over the last two years has challenged the department in executing its five-year plan.Nzimande was presenting to a joint higher education committee in Parliament on Wednesday on his department's annual performance, strategic and budget plans.He said the department has had some successes in fulfilling its five-year strategic plan, adopted in 2015, but admitted they have experienced some challenges, most notably the rise in student protests over funding."The first two years of implementing the strategic plan was characterised by a series of student protests highlighting some of the fundamental issues facing the post-school education system," he told MPs.He said the student protests were legitimate, and shone a light on some of the shortfalls of the sector, including transformation, student funding and student accommodation.The department is waiting for the Heher Fees Commission to finish and reveal its work into the student funding crisis, expected in mid-2017.As a department, they have done what they can for now, including finalising the November 2016 results. The demand for additional funds is beyond the department's short-term capability.Certification backlog 'an injustice'He also said clearing the certification backlog at TVET colleges, some of which go back to November 2007, is progressing, and wants the issue completely handled by July."One certificate not issued is an injustice to the student who has paid and not written an exam."Graduates are increasing in most scarce skills areas, including engineering, teaching, and natural and physical sciences.Enrolments in universities increased by 15% since 2015. The figure however was down for TVET colleges over the past two years.Nzimande asked MPs to be seized with the perceived "gross underfunding" of the TVET college sector, which is needed for mid-level skills."How about toyi-toying as Parliament that this budget can't go through without providing more money for TVET colleges," he said jokingly.He closed by saying the department's priority was still to provide funding to marginalised and poorer students.His department would later present in-depth details on the annual performance, strategic and budget plans, ahead of Parliament's budget votes later this month.