Two new universities are expected to open within two years, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said. Speaking during debate on his budget vote in the National Assembly, he said he had now received reports from the two task teams appointed to investigate appropriate models for new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
The project team had recommended sites to be seats of these universities.
“I plan to announce the seat of learning of each new institution in approximately three months’ time, once the full assessments have been done and in consultation with the president and relevant stakeholders.” “I remain committed that the first intake of these two new universities will be at the start of the academic year 2014,” Nzimande said.
Work was also underway to establish Medunsa as a separate, self-standing university of health sciences.
“Beyond this, we are looking at other opportunities for expanding the training of medical doctors and other health professionals, including animal health professionals. “I have therefore asked some of the universities to urgently provide me with concrete plans to expand in this regard.”
The department had been holding discussions with various professional councils with a view to producing sufficient graduates and providing them with work experience and support to ensure that they became registered professionals.
“We want to eliminate all forms of gate-keeping in the production of professionals,” Nzimande said.
While many universities were stable and effective, some of the former “bantustan” universities were weak and needed considerable effort and resources to strengthen them. Some had had to be placed under administration with a view to strengthening their governance and management, and consequently their academic capabilities.
Over the next two years, R3.8bn had been earmarked for universities’ overall infrastructure development, prioritising historically disadvantaged institutions. Of the R3.8bn infrastructure allocation, an amount of R1.6bn had been set aside specifically for historically disadvantaged institutions.
“On the academic front, my department is committed to increasing the production of graduates in engineering, the natural sciences, human and animal health sciences, and teacher education in line with my performance agreement with the president. “We are engaging with Higher Education South Africa and the deans of relevant faculties to accelerate, especially black and women graduate output in these areas.”
As a consequence of the study on the humanities and social sciences that Professor Ari Sitas and Dr Sarah Mosoetsa had been commissioned to undertake, and to ensure that these important disciplines were not neglected, a National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences would soon be established. To help tackle the problems faced by students wanting to enrol at a university, a National Information and Application System would be established soon.
This would centralise applications, so that students would not have to apply to multiple universities, each with its own application fees. The new system would also centralise National Student Financial Aid Scheme applications. “I have appointed a project steering committee to advise me on this issue,” Nzimande said.