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11. Dezember 2009

R6bn budget boost for higher education

The budged for higher education is set to grow progressively over the next three years, with Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande announcing that the amount is expected to grow from R15.3-billion in the 2008/9 financial year to R21.3-billion in 2011/12.

Speaking in Pretoria this week, Nzimande said the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) figures were tentative and subject to confirmation in the budget presentation.

He said the department has also earmarked allocations of R39-million for 2010/11 and R41-million for 2011/12 for the National Institutes for Higher Education in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, where exploratory work is being conducted on establishing new universities.

Nzimande also recommitted his department to reducing the percentage of students who are not subsidised as a consequence of over-enrolment by universities.
Teaching development grants

Meanwhile, a ministerial task team has recommended that the current policy on the calculation and distribution of teaching development grants be discontinued.

The main recommendations of the task team are that the minister should be able to set the annual amount available for teaching development as a fixed proportion of the total allocation for teaching outputs, and that all institutions should be eligible for teaching development funding, and not only those whose performance fell below national output norms.

"These and various other recommendations of the task team have been adapted to a new draft policy, which the minister wishes to implement in 2011/12," said the Department of Education in a statement this week. "The minister will seek the advice of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) before taking a final decision on the implementation of this new policy."

One of the features of the proposed new teaching development policy is that 80% of the MTEF budget for teaching outputs would be distributed on the basis of the actual teaching outputs or graduates produced by universities, while the balance of 20% would be used for teaching development grants.

Another feature is that the distribution of the funds available would be based on the share each institution has of the degree credit total of the higher education system. This is to ensure that all institutions are eligible for teaching development funds.
Improving graduation rates

It is envisaged that teaching development grants would continue to be earmarked funds which must be used for purposes designated by the minister.

"The minister's new requirement would be that these funds must be used in targeted ways to improve the success and graduation rates of disadvantaged students," the department said.

To gain access to the funds, institutions would have to do the following:

    * They would have to identify those programmes in which the graduation rates of disadvantaged students are significantly lower than those of advantaged students. They would have also to identify the courses within those programmes which are failed by large proportions of disadvantaged students.
    * They would have to submit plans indicating what interventions they could make to improve success rates in these courses. These plans would have to be accompanied by expenditure budgets.
    * Annual progress reports would have to have to be submitted. These would have to describe the outcomes of the implementation of the plans, including indications of changes that have occurred in success rates.

Research development grants

With regard to research development grants, the ministerial task team has recommended that the current policy on the calculation and distribution of grants be discontinued from the 2011/12 financial year.

The main features of the proposed new research policy, on which the minister will also seek advice from the CHE, include that 80% of the MTEF budget for research outputs would be distributed on the basis of the actual research outputs produced by universities.

The balance of 20% would be used for research development grants. It is also proposed that all universities would be eligible for research development grants.

"Minister Nzimande is [also] committed to advancing transformation in higher education and therefore believes that a new funding framework is necessary to ensure higher access and success rates particularly for black African and disadvantaged students, and improved quality of teaching and research," the department added.

SAinfo reporter

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