Mixed reaction to minister’s proposals to improve training

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande’s proposed solutions to this week’s tragic incident at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have received mixed reviews from educationists. 

The scenes at UJ put two burning concerns about post-school options into the spotlight: the inability of universities and further education and training (FET) colleges to accommodate the many thousands of young people desperately chasing too few meaningful education or training options and the chaotic application procedures at some universities.

Nzimande said a centralised application system would obviate pressure from late applicants such as UJ had experienced, as would prohibiting walk-in applications. He also said school leavers should view FET colleges and skills programmes facilitated by the sector education and training authorities (Setas) as viable alternatives.

Experts gave qualified approval to Nzimande’s proposal of a centralised application system. “This is a common practice in other countries such as the United Kingdom,” said UJ education professor Shireen Motala. “It streamlines admissions.”

But the University of Cape Town’s dean of higher-education development, Nan Yeld, cautioned that universities should retain autonomy in their admissions requirements. A central admissions process “must play a purely administrative role”, she said. UJ offers undergraduate diplomas and traditional bachelor’s degrees. It received more than 90 000 new applications for 2012, but its first-year intake is 11 000.

Desperate for diplomas
The Tshwane University of Technology predicted it would receive between 15 000 and 20 000 late applicants by the end of the week. Like UJ, it offers career-focused qualifications and diplomas as well as technology degrees.

The Durban University of Technology, which also offers diplomas and technology degrees, was “inundated by walk-ins” on Monday, said Alan Khan, the senior director of corporate affairs. Applicants were told to come back after the registration of students who had already been accepted at the end of the month.

There was less pressure from late applicants at Wits University, a short distance from UJ, with about 1 000 prospective students a day inquiring about late applications. Wits does not offer undergraduate diplomas.

Of the almost 500 000 learners who wrote matric in 2011 full-time, about 120 000 achieved marks high enough to be considered for admission to bachelor’s degrees. This puts about 380 000 school leavers under extreme pressure. They either failed matric or received a pass level that makes them eligible to study only for university diplomas or at a FET college. According to Nzimande, there are places for only 50 000 new entrants at FET colleges.

Martin Prew, the director of the Centre for Education Policy Development, said that there were “hopelessly few” places at FET colleges. “The technical education sector needs huge expansion but many of these institutions are struggling to get competent lecturers.”

Joy Papier, the director of the University of the Western Cape’s FET Institute, said: “Additional institutions are needed as well as a very creative use of post-school facilities such as police and teacher academies.”

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Gaseous explosion probably caused death of 21 young people at...

Expert says it will be a few weeks before a final determination is made on the cause of death

Eskom wage deadlock ends, setting SA back on course to...

This is according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who placed the blame for stage six load-shedding on unprotected strike action

Nearly 800 years later, the fires of the Benin bronze...

Ancient art has been carried out in the same street by smiths for dozens of generations

Pensioner again used in alleged multimillion-rand police corruption

Salamina Khoza’s RDP home in Soshanguve, Tshwane, emerged as the SAPS’s alleged fraud headquarters

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…