University student numbers set to reach 820 000


"This budget allocates new funds to higher education; more than R2 billion over the 2007 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) that will support infrastructure improvement on many campuses, improve academic salaries, and focus attention on academic support," said Naledi Pandor, the Minister, speaking during the Education Budget Vote.

Together with the R88,7 billion allocated in provincial education budgets this year, the R16 billion in the national budget provides the resources for a significant improvement of skills throughout our education system.

Of the R16 billion in the national budget, higher education receives R13,3 billion. This R13,3 billion is an increase of R1,5 billion (13%) over 2006.

In addition to R2 billion in new funds over the current MTEF, old funds have also been made available as earmarked funds for specific infrastructure and efficiency initiatives.

"Earmarked funds must be used in focused and accountable ways, so that they can contribute to improved student outcomes, especially in the light of national human-resource development priorities," the Minister said.

Student enrolment planning at each institution has been completed and student numbers are planned to grow from 738 000 students in 2005 to 820 000 by 2010. Growth in all disciplines has been accepted as part of the plan. However, the greatest expansion will be in the fields of science and technology and engineering.

She also announced a three-year pilot project to widen access to further and higher education. The Fundisa Fund will encourage poor parents to save for the education of their children. A matching state grant will be provided to parents who can afford to save a small amount each month for their children's higher or further education.

The Minister said: "We will not see the impact of Fundisa for many years, but when children begin to redeem their Fundisa funds, we will be able to see how farsighted we have been. In future, I hope that qualifying families will be able to draw on a combination of their Fundisa savings and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding to support their children's higher education. It is a future that will bring new hope to many of our people."

The 2007 budget provides R700 million for teacher bursaries over the next three years, the first R120 million of which for 3 000 student teachers this year has been fully committed in the Fundza Lushaka bursary programme.

The introduction of R600 million for bursaries (R100 million this year) in the Further Education and Training (FET) college sector will support the access of thousands of young people to newly recapitalised modern skills programmes.

A mass literacy campaign is in preparation for kick-off in 2008.

The 2007 budget provides R850 million for a step up in adult basic education and training programmes (R20 million of which is available this year).