29 November 2007
South Africa plans to increase the number of tertiary institutions in the country in a bid to ensure that 20% of people aged between 18 and 25 are enrolled in the higher education system by 2015.
Speaking at a higher education working group meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said the system would have to take on more than 100 000 extra students between 2010 and 2015 if the government was to reach its target.
She also highlighted the need to address the capacity constraints in the higher education system, as the current establishment cannot handle a planned increase in the number of students.
“It is clear that the current number of institutions would not be able to absorb 100 000 pupils into the system to counter skills shortages, which means we would have to address the resourcing of the system we have and the number of institutions,” Pandor said.
She pointed out that there are presently 740 000 students enrolled at tertiary institutions in the country, with 820 000 expected by 2010.
Higher Education South Africa (Hesa) chairperson Barney Pityana, who is also the principal and vice chancellor of the University of South Africa, said the government had accepted a proposal by the body which would see undergraduate degrees being completed in four years instead of the current three.
“It may have a major impact on cost, but would improve the cost structure because more students would be able to complete their degrees in four years’ time,” Pityana said.
It is estimated that over 70% of students do not complete their degrees within three years, with some dropping out and others failiing.
Earlier this month, the education department and Hesa formed a partnership that deals with the crucial link between schools and universities, and the consequences of policy and curriculum changes.
According to the two institutions, higher education’s success in producing quality graduates depends on the output of the schooling system.
They indicated that Grade 9 learners must choose school subjects that suit their intellectual interest and desired career paths, including the option of higher education.
“Strengthening this link is crucial; especially following the finalisation of the new schools curriculum for Grades 10 to 12 – the National Curriculum Statement and the new exit qualification, the National Senior Certificate,” the two institutions said in a statement.
“We have intrinsic interest in developing an informed learner pipeline into the higher education system, and therefore we need a flow of information that extends from choices made in Grade 9 to career choices made after one graduates with a degree or diploma.”