Minister Nzimande Engages With Stakeholders About Commencement Of 2021 Academic Year

Nzimande

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation engaged with USAf to discuss the current funding shortfall, student funding and debt challenges in the higher education and broader post-school education and training sector.

 

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On Monday 16 March, Minister Blade Nzimande met with Universities South Africa (USAf) to discuss the current funding shortfall, student funding and debt challenges in the higher education and broader post-school education and training sector.

The meeting recognised the general state of the country's economy and severe constraints imposed by both the strained financial situation and the impact of COVID-9, on the funding of critical aspects of the post-school system, including university subsidies and student financial aid.

Vice-Chancellors expressed their full understanding of severe financial stresses on many families as a result of the general economic situation in South Africa.

Both Minister and Vice-Chancellors affirmed the principle that affordable higher education must not take place at the expense of the underlying sustainability of the system therefore the need to balance the two imperatives remains critical.

It was agreed that the public needs to understand that the higher education sector is already under financial stress because of declining subsidy levels and the current reprioritization of funding to compensate for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme shortfall.

Therefore, any further debt relief measures must take into account the underlying stability of the system and differential capacities of individual institutions to absorb the debt.

USAf declared its commitment to work with the Department of Higher Education and Training on three interventions.

All 26 universities have committed to using several debt relief mechanisms on a case by case basis to enable academically-deserving students to register and complete their studies without undermining the underlying financial stability of each institution.

Specific attention is being given to the plight of senior students who are NSFAS bursary recipients before the 2018 NSFAS policy framework and the ‘missing middle’ income students where severe financial difficulties may be experienced.

Nzimande called on all institutions to use mechanisms it has to address this difficult issue.

Vice-Chancellors from all 26 universities declared their ongoing commitment to constructively engage with student leadership structures at an institutional level to continue to find solutions to the matters affecting the registration of students, including financial matters.

It has been agreed that a task team will be established urgently to begin work on a longer-term solution to support a comprehensive and sustainable student financial aid.

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The end of the 2021 school year is now in sight. There are always many smiling faces during the last week of school. Remember to take this time to make memories and be proud of what you've accomplished this year.