PLANS are in place to attract academic professionals to two universities to be built in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.

The plans include reviewing the retirement age of academics and attracting foreign scholars.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in his budget speech last month that R300m would be allocated for the establishment of the two universities.

Mr Gordhan said an additional R850m would be spent on improving university infrastructure.

He said if South Africa was to succeed in putting the economy on a more rapid and inclusive growth path to 2030, it needed to direct the levers of change effectively. These included improvements in further education.

"Investment in people is at the centre of our growth and development strategy," he said.

Speaking at the economics cluster media briefing in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Nzimande said in many parts of the world, academics did not have a retirement age.

"In some universities in South Africa, academics retire at 60 ... we will also, inevitably, have to attract some foreign academics because it's not that we have a surplus of academics in the country," Mr Nzimande said.

With KARL GERNETZKY