Naledi Pandor. Picture: GCIS
Naledi Pandor. Picture: GCIS

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor on Thursday conceded that the government’s new policy on free higher education had not made provision for postgraduate students, and suggested the private sector could hep fill the gap.

The policy, announced by former president Jacob Zuma last December, provides tertiary education bursaries for people from households with an annual income of less than R350,000.

It covers the full cost of study, but only at undergraduate level, posing a headache for universities seeking to increase their pipeline of researchers.

"There has to be attention (paid) to the improvement of funding postgraduate students. We need to ensure we provide adequate resources," Pandor told reporters ahead of her budget vote speech to Parliament.

"My sense is that it is one of the domains in which there is significant possibility for partnership with the private sector. Other countries have done this well. I think it is an area we could explore," she said.

Pandor acknowledged that the demand for university places was to some extent driven by the poor reputation of SA’s technical and vocational educational training (TVET) colleges, but said work was under way to improve the sector.

"The interventions are to ensure they increasingly become the institution of first choice for young people. My hope is that we are gong to have a very good set of relationships between TVET (colleges) and industry that will allow lecturers to spend time in industry and for industry leadership to teach in the TVET colleges, so you have an understanding and collaboration that does not exist at present," she said.

Pandor said the Department of Higher Education and Training expected that this year 84,000 first-time entry university students would be fully funded under the new policy.

A further 190,000 students in all other years of study were to be funded at the "average full cost of study".

"This massive injection of student funding support under the new … bursary scheme is also combined with a government commitment to increase the core funding for universities and TVET colleges to 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) over a five-year period," she said.