Skills-Universe

Keynote Address by Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande....Opening of Teachers colleges coming!

Department of Higher Education and Training, 24 January 2013
at The New Age-SABC 2 Business Briefing, Montecasino Ballroom, Johannesburg


Keynote Address by Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande


Programme Director, Mr Peter Ndoro
Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana
Leadership of The New Age and SABC
Honourable Guests from Constituency Organisations represented here
Distinguished Guests with us here today, and the viewers of Morning Live
Ladies and Gentleman; Comrades


It is the beginning of another academic year, and institutions that provide Post-School Education and Training (PSET) have started their admissions and registration processes. As the department, we are working very closely with them to ensure that many of the challenges that often erupt at this time of the year are better managed.

Let me tell you about the state of readiness of our PSET institutions to receive the student cohort for 2013. The number of available spaces this year for learners (FTEN – First Time Entering Students) at universities is 183 893 with 100 000 available spaces at Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges and 18 000 Learnership opportunities through Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

I must hasten to point out that the number of spaces that are still available will only be available when the institutions open and registrations are taking place. Universities would have admitted (provisionally) grade 12 learners based on our agreed targets as part of the application processes for 2013.  Trends every year have shown that not all learners who have actually applied come to register.

Therefore it is only when registrations are complete that institutions will be able to determine the number of spaces still available for late applicants.

Universities

On 20 November 2012, the Department, with Higher Education South Africa (HESA), hosted a meeting with the Registrars of universities as part of our planning for the 2013 registration period. As the department, we have established a dedicated unit which works closely with universities in trying to resolve challenges as they arise.

Universities also have dedicated personnel who serve as the first port-of-call for the department to raise any issues it sees fit to raise. In this regard, these officials provide the department with regular reports and feedback on developments as they unfold at institutions.

Most institutions had indicated that as a general rule, and as a result of a high number of applications received, they would not be accepting late applications (“walk-ins”), however, through processes that have been put in place such as the Central Applications Clearing House (CACH), they will now consider cases of each student on the basis of individual merit where spaces for admission are still available.

This door is cautiously being opened hoping that those who are accepted during this window of opportunity will not miss out on important university programmes and be able to successfully negotiate the leap from school education into university.

I must say, we are impressed with a number of institutions who are increasingly making use of advanced communication and information technologies, such as the short message service and online registration systems, to facilitate the registration of new and returning students. This relieves the burden of long queues on students, parents and staff at our institutions. One such example is the “Mobi site” of the University of Johannesburg that facilitated late applications through an ICT platform.

From current reports, with the exception of a few cases which the department is currently dealing with, the process of admissions is proceeding fairly well, and the department will continue to monitor the situation. We also acknowledge the cooperation and support currently being provided by our student leadership in partnership with the institutions’ management in an attempt to ensure that the registration process in 2013 proceeds smoothly.

As part of the departmental work aimed at ensuring a successful commencement of the 2013 academic year, we have started compiling a weekly update on the state of every institution’s registration process. Coupled with this, the Deputy Minister will also be visiting selected institutions to monitor the registration process.

The department will be monitoring the situation across the system by communicating with universities and the public through the media and visits to institutions and where necessary provide support.

Information compiled during these visits will be consolidated into a composite report which will be tabled at a feedback session with all Registrars of public universities after the 2013 registration and admission period is over. This will help in our preparations for a further improved registration process in 2014.

FET Colleges

In terms of FET Colleges, it is always important to remember that due to historical anomalies, these institutions are at varying levels of functional capacity. The question of readiness therefore cannot be addressed on a one-size-fits-all basis.

Given the differences in readiness, institutional challenges, and varying demands for educational opportunities at various teaching and learning sites, expanding the FET College intake in a similarly differentiated and context-specific manner has to be our standard approach. The expansion of each FET College intake shall be premised on the following principles:

(1) The availability of adequately trained lecturers and staff,
(2) Appropriately equipped lecture rooms and workshops,
(3) Effective utilisation of existing infrastructure, and
(4) Efficient management of teaching, learning and training schedules.


I am happy to confirm that most of our FET Colleges are ready to accommodate the Matric class of 2012. In many of them, the staff came back to work on 3 January 2013 to prepare for the finalisation of admissions and registration of students who had already applied in 2012. They are also anticipating the possibility of “walk-ins” and need to manage late applications as swiftly as possible. The department has further undertaken to support any FET College that may require assistance in managing their admission processes.

The initial feedback during the enrolment monitoring visits being undertaken by Provincial and departmental officials suggest that despite the enrolment planning workshops in the latter part of 2012, a significant number of FET Colleges have been inundated with far greater numbers of students applying for admission than what they had projected and anticipated.

In response to this, some FET Colleges has responded by:

1. Extending the operating hours for receiving and processing applications and enrolments;
2. Re-organising the time-table to make provision for additional afternoon and weekend Report 191/NATED classes; and
3. Allowing for higher enrolment numbers than was initially planned.


To support our FET Colleges during this period, the department has set up an Enrolment Monitoring Team, which has been visiting all the FET Colleges in the provinces to monitor and provide support. This has enabled the department to have its finger on the pulse with regard to which parts of the system may be experiencing some stresses and then provide real-time intervention.

In the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, our officials are working with JET Education Services to ensure that college readiness is closely monitored and timeous support is provided and in keeping with the two provinces’ FET improvement plans.

Many in the country have expressed discomfort with regards to the quality of the FET College offerings. Let me state for the record that we are quite aware of these concerns and the responsibility of determining the quality of qualifications offered by the FET Colleges is vested in the Quality Councils, namely Umalusi for N1-N3 and NC (V), the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) for Occupations and N4-N6, as well as the Higher Education Qualifications Council (HEQC) for Higher Education Qualifications such as Higher Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees.

All these Quality Councils have declared that their qualifications fit the purpose for which the qualification was developed and is registered with the South African Qualifications Authority on the National Qualifications Framework.

Further, with respect to industry-certified qualifications, the industry-sector concerned accredits the college and certifies the students after it is satisfied with the college’s degree of compliance with industry requirements. There is therefore little to be concerned about in this regard.

Another area of concern has been with regards to the quality of the teaching staff. In this area, the department has gradually adopted a three-pronged approached to lecturer training and development. The approach is informed by the socio-economic role of FET colleges and the research we have conducted in this country, and in other countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, China, the USA and Jamaica.

I have recently gazetted an FET Lecturer Qualifications Policy on the basis of which Universities and Universities of Technology will offer programmes of study to prepare graduates for TVET professional practice. For continuous professional development, the department trains an average of about 800 lecturers per annum in:

(a) New subjects introduced at the request of industry;
(b) New programmes that are introduced at the request of other government departments, e.g. SAPS, Transport and Health); and
(c) Subjects in which the success rates are low.


Sector Education and Training Authorities

Some of those who have come out of the schooling system may choose to find work. Those who wish to enter the world of work or need to increase their skills capabilities should consider the options of Learnerships, Apprenticeships and skills programmes through any of the 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) which cover each economic sector in the country.

There are currently 18 000 learnership opportunities available through the SETAs. In 2012, the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (WARSETA) provided bursaries for students in FET Colleges to the value of R27 million. We are hoping that more SETAs will take it upon themselves to also support financially needy and deserving students that are registered in FET Colleges in a similar manner.

The SETAs are now starting to work more closely with the public FET colleges and some universities to fund skills development programmes of various types. The SETAs, which have contacts with most employers, are well placed to assist the colleges and universities of technology to ensure that students find opportunities for work-integrated learning in public and private sector workplaces.

They are also being required to assist with the placement of graduates from post-school institutions in jobs. We are restructuring the SETAs to play this role effectively.

Articulation

In concluding my talk this morning, I have to touch on one of the most important pillars of the success of our PSET vision, and that is articulation. Articulation between different institution types within the post school education system is extremely critical for our success as a department, and as a country. I am specifically referring to the articulation between FET Colleges and universities.

Our intention is to establish a single, integrated, coherent and well-articulated post-school system in which all institutions work in such a way that they strengthen one another and in which there are no dead ends for learners.

Should learners decide to change learning paths or progress to higher levels within the same learning paths, the opportunities should be there for them to do so, with the knowledge and skills already obtained being recognised for further progression.

In as much as articulation between colleges and universities is important, we must also not lose sight of another important form of articulation, between educational institutions and workplaces.

If we don’t take this into account we risk shaping our FET College programmes as purely university entrance courses. FET College programmes should primarily be vocational institutions which nonetheless leave the possibility for young people to continue – with some bridging if necessary – into university programmes.

The colleges must do whatever is possible to assist those who complete their college education to gain work placement and must cooperate with employers to provide workers with the education necessary for apprenticeships, Learnerships and internships.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, the PSET system is not yet perfect, but I can say that there are great improvements that have been registered. We are ready for the 2013 cohort of students who will be entering our institutions. The CACH we are operating to support late applicants this year, is only the first phase of the planned Central Application Service (CAS).

The purpose of CACH is to assist prospective students who have not applied previously at any of our universities or have been rejected by institutions. The service is accessible through a website (http://cach.dhet.gov.za), a call centre number (0860 111 673), and a Please Call Me / SMS (0722 045 056). The service has been active since the 3 January 2013, and the response by users has been quite impressive.

I thank you.


Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training 
24 Jan 2013

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