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Higher Education committee is confident of a successful start to 2024 academic year


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Higher Education committee is confident of a successful start to 2024 academic year

Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation Chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa
Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation Chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa

19th January 2024


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As the 2024 academic year begins, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, is buoyed by the achievements of the higher education class of 2023 and congratulates the matric class of 2023.
The committee urges all stakeholders in the sector to ensure that the thousands of first-time entrants into tertiary-level education and returning tertiary students across the country receive assistance timeously to ensure a good start to the academic year.
In preparation for the 2024 academic year, the committee held several meetings between 21 November 2023 and 8 December 2023 with stakeholders to understand the level of preparedness of everyone in the sector, including the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), led by the Minister Dr BE Nzimande; the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS); the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Governors Council; Universities South Africa; the South African Union of Students; and the South African Technical Vocational Education and Training Students Association.
During these engagements, the stakeholders informed the committee of their readiness for 2024 and their plans for a smooth start to the academic year, including mitigation of any challenges. The committee noted the areas of concern they raised and urged them to work together, led by the DHET, to avert any possible disruptions.
The committee is fully aware of and gravely concerned by the challenges in the higher education sector, such as those experienced by NSFAS in finalising outstanding matters from the 2023 academic year. This includes the disbursement of outstanding allowances to students, finalisation of appeals, and the accreditation of private accommodation.
The committee remains greatly concerned that the inability to pay these outstanding allowances could have a ripple effect on student registration in 2024. The committee urged NSFAS to address these issues with urgency. The committee further called upon NSFAS to ensure that adequate systems are in place to ensure that students receive the necessary assistance on time so that they are not prevented from registering.
The committee heard last year that Cabinet has approved the Ministerial Task Team Report on the Comprehensive Student Funding Model and repeated its request for the report to come before the committee. The committee notes the plans recently announced to provide financial assistance to missing-middle students. Given their dire challenges and the need to expand access to education, the committee has been consistent in calling for funding for missing-middle students and wants access to the full report to keep abreast of its insights, findings and recommendations.
Meanwhile, the committee asked the DHET and NSFAS to communicate clearly to prospective students about the processes they must follow to receive financial assistance to ensure the efficient roll out of this intervention.
The committee further notes with great concern the allegations levelled against the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the NSFAS Board Chairperson. The NSFAS Board assured South Africans that it would appoint an independent legal team to investigate the allegations. This must be done with maximum cooperation from all affected parties and with speed, as these governance and management challenges impact negatively on the mandate of important entities like NSFAS. As with all other allegations and concerns in the sector brought to the attention of the committee, the committee will engage with the stakeholders affected by the allegations.
The committee will also, as part of its oversight to assess tertiary institutions’ readiness for the 2024 academic year, visit post-school education and training institutions in the Eastern Cape from 29 January to 2 February 2024. The Department of Higher Education and Training and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will be joining the committee. Their participation will assist in monitoring the implementation of the plans presented to the committee in 2023 and to troubleshoot sectoral areas of concern. 



Issued by the Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa

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