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University not the only option: Nzimande

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande Picture: Antonio Muchave/ Sowetan
Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande Picture: Antonio Muchave/ Sowetan

Post-matric students should consider alternatives other than university, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday.

"The future of our youth does not only lie in going to university, or in going to university the first time you finish matric," he told reporters in Pretoria.

"You can still access meaningful post-school opportunities and meaningful careers. At another time, you can be able to proceed to university, if you want to do that."

He said because of the emphasis on enrolling at university after matric, South African society had driven itself into a cul-de-sac.

Nzimande said some of those who queued for places at universities were "chancers" who did not qualify.

"In the queues we have people who have not passed. It's always the case.

"We know that as South Africans we don't give up, we take a chance where we can. Very few people didn't do that. When I grew up in Dambuza I used to take a chance."

Nzimande said there were 425,095 opportunities in post-school tertiary education and training. This was an increase of 28,646 from the 396,449 provided in 2014.

These opportunities included 204,522 university places, 44,000 places for engineering and business studies at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, and training for 16,250 aspiring artisans.

Nzimande said government was aware of the severe shortage of student accommodation at tertiary institutions.

"In many ways, as government we are victims of our own successes. We grew in numbers faster than we can build infrastructure. The university sector has grown tremendously since 1994," he said.

"To maximise what we already have, adequate as it is, we have promulgated a student accommodation policy. Amongst other things, it prioritises accommodation for first year students."

Nzimande said government had increased funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to cater for poor and disabled students.

"NSFAS will be funding 205,000 first-time entering and continuing eligible students at universities and 200,000 students at TVET colleges in 2015," he said.

The government scheme would provide loans and bursaries totalling R9.5 billion.

"In 2014, NSFAS provided student loans and bursaries totalling over R8.3bn, which excluded the once-off allocation of R1bn for the servicing of the 2013 shortfall of R700 million and 2014 shortfall of R300m."

Nzimande said the National Skills Fund (NSF) made further annual allocations to the NSFAS, aimed at funding the full cost of study in critical skill areas.

"NSFAS has been allocated over R526.9m for bursaries for scarce and critical skills for the current year from the NSF.

"This funding is made available through the financial aid offices in universities. Students wishing to make use of these bursaries are advised to enrol for critical skills which include science, commerce, health science, engineering," he said.

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