Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says there is a catalogue of opportunities available to the Class of 2013 wishing to further their studies.
Speaking to journalists in Pretoria on Thursday, Nzimande also announced that on top of the two recently opened universities – one in Mpumalanga and one in the Northern Cape – 12 new Further Education Training (FET) colleges will be opened during the course of the year.
Nzimande said this at the backdrop of an increased National Senior Certificate pass rate from 73.9% in 2012 to 78.2% in 2013 – its highest since 1994 – which will result in a higher demand for spaces in the post-school education and training system.
“This significant increase in successful candidates with predominantly Bachelor and Diploma entrance National Senior Certificates will have implications for the Department in relation to enrolments within higher education institutions.
“As the department, we are aware that this is a very important milestone in the lives of young people and therefore would like to take this opportunity to make them aware of approximately 396 449 opportunities available to them within the post-school education and training system, that is, 25 universities, 50 FET colleges and 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs),” he said.
Unpacking the available opportunities, Nzimande said:
– There are 197 946 new entrant opportunities in universities;
– There is also 23 000 Engineering and Business studies opportunities at FET colleges;
– Some 44 000 National Certificate Vocational programme opportunities at FET colleges; and
– About 10 000 artisanal opportunities at FET colleges.
He also said there were 93 000 Occupationally-directed apprenticeship and learnership opportunities in collaboration with FET colleges, SETAs and employers, while there are about 12 000 additional artisanal opportunities within the retail auto sector.
SETAs also offered 16 503 leanerships through SETAs.
Nzimande said these opportunities had been communicated to students through various departmental career guidance initiatives.
These, he said, includes a career festival during Mandela Day in July where career guidance material and information was distributed to grade 12 learners.
He also said his department, in partnership with the SABC, ran 30 minute weekly programmes across ten radio stations throughout the year offering useful information ranging from career guidance, information about available universities and FET colleges.
“We also use these programmes to call on our youngsters to apply [for further study opportunities]. “We also have a dedicated website, call centre including a call-back centre, so that those students that are unable to afford calling us are able to send a ‘please call me back’ message so that they are called back.”
Nzimande said, however, that more could be done to get information across to leaners to prepare them for post matric, and added that in 2013, his department aimed to place two career guidance councillors in each 50 FET colleges across the country.
Nzimande said those that qualified for university entrance could choose from the 25 universities that have situated across the country, including the two newly opened Sol Plaatjie University in the Northern Cape and the Mpumalanga University – where learning will commence this year.
Challenges facing higher education system
He said the higher education system was still faced with challenges relating to space, and needed to be expanded to meet the needs of students.
He said government would focus its energies on expanding the FET sector, as it is required by the National Development Plan – the country’s framework for the economy to prosper by 2030.
“As part of government’s commitment to expanding the post-school education and training opportunities, the department is building 12 new FET campuses, which in 2014 will be able to further accommodate an additional 6500 new students.
“The National Development Plan requires that by 2030 at least 30 000 qualified artisans are produced per year,” he said.
Bursaries, funding available to study hopefuls
Nzimande said R8.3-billion had been set aside for students wishing to further their studies and who needed financial assistance.
“The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be funding 205 000 students at universities and 215 000 students at FET colleges in 2014 by providing student loans and bursaries totalling over R8.3-billion.
“In addition to the funds that the NSFAS received from the voted funds, the National Skills Fund makes further annual allocations [R497-million for 2014] aimed at funding the full cost of study towards critical skills programmes, most needed for the growth of the economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nzimande said his department will, next week Wednesday, release a white paper on higher education that will cover, amongst others, the issue of affordability of universities and FET colleges. – SANews.gov.za
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