In a Parliamentary Meeting held last month, on 12 October 2022, several concerns regarding South Africa's higher education sector arose.
The urgency for finding a new funding model for higher education was emphasized by the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) for the upcoming academic year and beyond.
The performance of higher education has improved and has been noted as "impressive", but there are areas of concern such as irregular expenditure, misuse of funds and material irregularities in the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).
Although the higher education sector is need of an updated funding model for the future, allocated funds to institutions of tertiary education remain protected, despite significant budget adjustments.
Teaching and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges were an area of particular focus, as it was highlighted that (in comparison to universities) enrollments have been low.
The target for the number of students enrolled in TVET Colleges was not met due to the disruptive nature of the 2020/2021 lockdown, which meant only 21% of the target have graduated with their N6 qualifications.
Another reason for the low number of students joining TVET Colleges, is that students don't see the appeal of TVET Colleges and would rather prefer to attend a university instead, believing there are better job prospects available with a university qualification than with a TVET qualification.
On the bright side, for the 2021/22 academic years, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was allocated R116.8 billion and saw a growth of 10.1% compared to 2020/21, where significant growth is shown in Skills Development and CET programmes. TVET programmes reflect marginal growth of 1.2% between 2020/21 and 2021/22, reveals the meeting's report.
Overall, the DHET performance has been mixed due to Covid-19, but poor results could mean long-lasting challenges like youth unemployment, TVET allocation and declining proportional allocation, as well as poor Community Education and Training (CET) uptakes.
The FFC has recommended that TVET Colleges start with implementing 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) programmes, as the skill is critical to development.
The 4IR Skills Programme provides skills training in key 4th Industrial Revolution domains namely data science, 3D printing, cloud computing, drone piloting, software development, cyber security, digital content production.
Introducing 4IR courses may also make TVET Colleges appear more attractive for future students to attend.