Government sets aside R169m for academic staff shortages

The average age of academics at South African universities is 55, Blade Nzimande said at the 7th SA Technology Network Conference. (Snyder, Reuters)

The average age of academics at South African universities is 55, Blade Nzimande said at the 7th SA Technology Network Conference. (Snyder, Reuters)

The higher education department is to set aside R169-million to address staffing shortages at South Africa’s universities, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.

Nzimande, who presented the opening address at the 7th South African Technology Network in Durban, said details of the plan would be announced in the near future once it had been discussed with the vice-chancellors of the country’s universities. 

“The average age of academics at South African universities is about 55 years, which means if we don’t do something drastic the implications are that we will run short of academics. In some respects we are experiencing that already.” 

Nzimande said he was concerned that there were not enough people studying for their PhDs. He said the lack of people with PhDs had implications for the quality of education at universities. 

The South African Technology Network is a gathering of leaders from the country’s universities of technology (UOT), formerly known as technikons. 

Nzimande told delegates at the conference he was concerned that the UOTs were trying to become ordinary universities. 

“I am worried about mission drift,” he said. There was an absolute need for the UOTs to produce people with diplomas. 

Referring to student financing, Nzimande said communication with students about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme was critical to avoid student protests. 

“This trashing of our UOTs is a problem.
You don’t burn a library because you demand a laboratory. It doesn’t make sense at all.” 

He said he did not condone the violence and had spoken to the police minister to deal firmly with student unrest. – Sapa

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