Higher education dept to invest R6.9bn in infrastructure in 2017/18
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) will invest R6.9-billion on major new infrastructure developments at local universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in the 2017/18 financial year.
Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said: “R2.1-billion will go towards student accommodation; R1.47-billion towards the refurbishment of current infrastructure and backlog maintenance; R2.9-billion towards refurbishing buildings at Sol Plaatje University[, in the Northern Cape]; and R248-million will be allocated to historically disadvantaged universities,” he said.
Nzimande added that a further R300-million had been budgeted for priority projects identified by universities.
He highlighted that the biggest challenge currently facing the DHET was the inadequate funding of the TVET college sector.
“There can be no radical economic transformation without investment into TVET colleges. They need to absorb the millions of youths sitting at home and they need to address the skills shortages the country is facing,” he said.
Nzimande pointed out that studies have shown that 79% of TVET graduates find employment.
Twelve new TVET colleges are under construction, with two TVET campuses in KwaZulu-Natal to open their doors this year.
Nzimande also reiterated that the DHET was committed to finding a permanent solution to the university funding challenge this year.
He pointed out that, since 2013, more than two million students have been funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), adding that 120 000 TVET students have already received support this year.
The Minister also addressed rumours that NSFAS would be privatised this year, stating: “NSFAS will not be privatised as long as I am Minister.”
Meanwhile, Nzimande stressed that the participation of black students in tertiary education needed to grow.
The DHET had, therefore, approved the University Capacity Development Programme, which will be implemented from the start of the 2018 academic year, which will prioritise historically disadvantaged universities.
The DHET’s student housing infrastructure programme is another priority area. About 200 000 new beds were needed to accommodate students at universities. This excludes the number of beds required to accommodate students attending TVET colleges.
Nzimande said the department was making steady progress in its joint work with the Department of Public Works to identify underused government buildings that could be converted into student accommodation.