R840m to upgrade varsities

Pretoria – R840 million will be allocated to historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs) from the development grant over the next two financial years.

This emerged during a meeting in Parliament on Wednesday, where the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training was briefed on the implementation of recommendations by the Ministerial Committee for the Review of Funding of Universities.

Briefing the committee on the progress of implementing the recommendations, the Reference Group and Technical Team indicated that there have been at least three recommendations that have been finalised by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande for implementation in the 2015/16 financial year.

HDI development fund

One of the recommendations to be implemented is on the HDI development fund, which will see funds allocated for a five-year period (2015/16 to 2019/20) mainly for infrastructure.

The committee heard that for the next two financial years, a total of approximately R840 million would be allocated to HDIs. This comprises R410 734 000 for 2015/16 and R433 532 000 for 2016/17.

Committee chairperson Yvonne Phosa said higher education is a driver of global competitiveness, especially in the age of knowledge-based global economy.

“In line with the National Development Plan, we want the country to produce a highly skilled workforce so we can compete globally. However, financial constraints, which are compounded by historical disadvantage to a large extent, have been an impediment to our envisaged goals,” said Phosa.

Phosa said it was clear from the presentation by the Reference Group and Technical Team that the review of the funding formula was a much needed exercise in the higher education sector.

She further emphasised the need for monitoring and evaluating the infrastructure-related projects that would be carried out.

“This would assist to ensure that the infrastructure is used accordingly and properly maintained.”

The report of the Ministerial Committee identified seven HDIs. These include Fort Hare, Limpopo, Venda, Walter Sisulu, Western Cape, Zululand and Mangosuthu University of Technology. Sefako Makgatho Health Science University was also recognised as a HDI institution. – SAnews.gov.za

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