HIGHER Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on Thursday in Pietermaritzburg welcomed last year’s 73.9% National Senior Certificate pass rate, and urged those who did not qualify for university entrance to consider alternatives, including further education and training (FET) colleges.
The Department of Higher Education and Training said on Wednesday that it would provide R6bn to universities between 2012 and 2015 for infrastructure development, with the bulk of the funding going to "historically disadvantaged" institutions.
While the country’s matrics who passed their exams celebrated on Thursday, questions were raised by academics about universities’ abilities to accommodate new entrants.
Mr Nzimande said universities would accept about 180,000 new entrants this year, while public FET colleges had 100,000 available spaces.
More than 270,000 students qualified to enter a higher education institution. Of these, 135,000 will be allowed to enrol at a university.
Jeffrey Mabelebele, acting CEO of Higher Education South Africa, which represents university leadership, said this year’s higher pass rate meant universities could expect more students coming to campuses than could be accommodated.
Economist Chris Hart said on Wednesday that although efforts were made by the Department of Basic Education, the results produced by the schooling system were still not consistent with the state’s investment in basic education.
"Things have improved, but it’s still nowhere near acceptable," he said. "Resources invested and results that come out still show that there is still a considerable waste. Countries that put in similar effort produce much, much better results."
Mr Hart said alternatives to university for high school leavers were inadequate and not accessible enough.
"These alternatives are not as strong as before," he said. "Even apprenticeships are harder to access. Before, an alternative was almost an automatic mechanism, where if you couldn’t do this, you did that. Now there appears to be a gap in this regard."
Infrastructure improvements planned by the Department of Higher Education include better access for the physically challenged and facilities for student accommodation.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Thursday that her department would aim for a 75% matric pass rate this year.
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