Pretoria – Government has set aside R16.3 billion towards higher education, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday.
“An additional R16.3 billion has been allocated for higher education over the next three years. R5.7 billion of this addresses the shortfall caused by keeping fees for the 2016 academic year at 2015 levels, and the carry-through costs over the MTEF period,” explained Minister Gordhan.
The Minister tabled the 2016 Budget in Parliament, on Wednesday.
Added to that, R2.5 billion will go to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to clear outstanding student debt, along with a further R8 billion over the medium term to enable current students to complete their studies.
In October last year, President Jacob Zuma established a task team to investigate the short-term student funding challenges at universities. Based on its recommendations, R16.3 billion was added to medium-term allocations for the post-school education and training function group.
An amount of R2.5 billion in 2016/17 which is transferred to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will clear the debt of 71 753 students for the 2013 to 2015 academic years, along with a further R8 billion over the medium term to support underfunded current students to complete their studies.
A Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training was established in January 2016. The commission is to report within 10 months of its formation on the feasibility of making higher education and training free in South Africa.
In addition, an interdepartmental task team, chaired by the National Treasury, is working on the longer-term project of investigating financing options for the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training.
The task team includes representatives of the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and the Financial and Fiscal Commission.
Also the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions is projected to increase from 1 million in 2015/16 to 1.1 million in 2018/19, and the number of postgraduates and doctoral graduates from 48 300 and 2 060 to 56 600 and 2 500, respectively, over the same period.
The budget noted that the newly established University of Mpumalanga and the Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape have been allocated R3.9 billion for operational costs and capital expenditure over the medium term.
These additional funds will allow for the universities to expand enrolments to 2 010 students in 2016, up from the 1 234 admitted in 2015.