Government Wants More Students To Enrol At TVET Colleges

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The start of each academic year is usually marked by a number of challenges, mainly involving funding issues, accommodation barriers and access to higher education. One way these challenges can be overcome is by expanding the TVET college sector.

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Since South Africa became a democratic republic in 1994, we have seen the number of university enrolments more than double. However, 28 years later, the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college sector is still lagging behind. 

Like previous years, the 2023 academic year did not get off to a positive start, with nationwide protests at a number of our public universities in response to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding delays, a student accommodation crisis and a lack of safety and security on campus. 

One of the main causes of these issues is the large number of students applying to study at public universities. While the universities themselves may be able to accommodate for this increase, South Africa has a massive student bed shortage.

Approximately 300 000 beds are needed to solve this crisis, which the government does not have the budget for. 

This leaves students with no option but to seek out private accommodation, however the recent R45 000 accommodation cap implemented by the largest bursary scheme in the country, NSFAS students are unable to afford these prices. 

In an interview with PowerFM on Tuesday, Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, revealed that one way of combatting this problem is by expanding the TVET college sector. Since the development of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in 2009, the TVET sector has grown from just under 200 000 students to roughly 600 000 students, but it should be three to four times bigger than the university sector, says Nzimande. 

By 2030, the Department aims to have 2.5 million students enrolled across our TVET colleges.

New TVET College Campuses

While the government does have plans to expand this sector and add 16 new TVET campuses, the Minister doubts that this target will be achieved within the initial timeline. South Africa currently has 50 TVET colleges, so the number of colleges and campuses will need to grow drastically over the next 7 years.

These 16 new campuses will be built with the hope of increasing access to and success in the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector. R2.88 billion has been invested in the refurbishment and development of the TVET sector.

At the beginning of the year, 10 new TVET campuses were completed and ready to operate. During the course of the year, three more campuses will be completed and the remaining three will be completed by the beginning of 2024. 

At the beginning of the year, the Minister encouraged more students to enrol at TVET colleges. The DHET suggests that we need to put initiatives in place that will make applying to a TVET college more attractive to students.

Government's Plan To Increase TVET Enrolment

While attending a university is generally associated with a certain level of prestige, attending a TVET college is a lot more practical, especially for students interested in more hands-on career paths. 

The Department aims to establish a stronger relationship between TVET colleges and industries, where students will be offered practical work experience while they study, as well as a placement once they have completed their studies. This method is based on a system commonly used in Germany, where results have been positive. 

The prospect of a job after studying can be a great motivator for students, especially lower income students who are often the sole breadwinners in their families. 

Additionally, the Department has entered into a number of partnerships with the private sector to provide training and workplace experience for TVET students and lecturers.

While great strides have been made since the end of apartheid in 1994 and the establishment of the DHET in 2009, the government needs to consistently develop new initiatives and increase access to tertiary education if they are to meet their goal of 2.5 million TVET students by 2030. 

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TVET colleges expansion

Over the past few years, the Department of Higher Education and Training has been on a mission to expand the college sector. However, in order for these plans to be successful additional funding is needed.

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