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The Minister of Higher Education and Training recently presented the 2017/18 department budget to parliament.
He is responsible for ALL post-school education and training. This includes both public and private providers at ‘college’ and ‘university’ level.
This responsibility includes 26 public universities and over 100 [relatively small] private providers offering degrees and higher. It also includes 50 public technical and vocational colleges, community colleges and speciality colleges. In addition, there are also over 100 private colleges.
He is also in charge of the 21 SETAs and while not validated, it is estimated that there are up to 4000 small providers serving SETA skills development needs.
Within this context, He has the unenviable job of presenting a ‘balanced’ budget.
Typically, there are 4 major players in a democratic society; Government, Business, Labour and Civil society. In summary and from my perspective; Government is calling for more funds to be directed to national skills needs, Business is demanding much more value from skills levies, Labour is not allowing any possibility of staff optimisation at public institutions and Civil society simply says ‘fees must fall’.
Based on my own interpretation on the 2017/18 DHET budget these are the ‘big’ line items.
· Universities R 41,9bn
· NSFAS R 10,1bn
· TVET colleges R 7,4bn
· Community Colleges R2,2bn
· SETA levies is R 16,6bn
If we make the simple assumption that all the NSFAS funding also goes to universities that means approximately R 52bn will be spent on university education in 2017/18. The number of students in the public university system is estimated at just under 1 million. If we assume 1 million students, then the government contribution per student is R52 000. Surprisingly not that much, and as such, it is understandable that universities need to charge a fee as well.
My other observation and more worrying concern is the mismatch between expenditure at university level and college level. The budget for TVET and Community colleges plus 50% of SETA levies and assuming another 2bn to speciality colleges, is approximately R 20bn.
If we have a skills challenge in SA; is it correct that R 52bn goes to universities and R 20bn to colleges?
I don’t envy the minister, his advisors and the department officials, however I do know that the status quo is not doing the job!
It’s time for significant change. I wonder if the major players will put their constituency needs aside and do what’s best for SA. I sincerely hope so….