Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande believes that in order to ease the student burden when enrolling for university for further education and studies will only come with the building of new universities.
New information has revealed that roughly 21% of all student applications to universities in the country were successful. It is clear that there is an increased demand for higher education in the country.
The aim of the Department of Education is to meet the prescribed goals of the National Development Plan which requires that higher education participation in the country increase from 19.9% to 30% by 2030.
The government has allocated a large portion of the national budget towards education since 2007 and intends to commit a further R6 billion over the next 2 years. In addition, the establishment of the new University of Mpumalanga (UMP) is going to need roughly R7 billion over the course of 10 years.
The establishment of UMP is a clear indication that the government is committed to the transformation process within the education sector and is determined to provide access to education to all individuals in South Africa.
It is forgone conclusion that higher education contributes to national development and growth, the question is what is the standard of quality of this education. Institutions of higher education and learning play a pivotal role in training students for the labour market and provide individual with the necessary skills to succeed in their careers.
Not only do universities provide teaching, learning and professional development for students, universities and other institutions of higher education provide leadership skills through research and knowledge creation in critical areas of national development. Higher education is not about physical buildings rather it is about the development of cultural and economic life of our communities.
“We therefore expect no Ivory Towers here but rather an institution accessible to all, particularly the rural communities of Mpumalanga, where some of this university’s research will be done. It is from these communities as well as from across the country that it will draw its students. Therefore, there should be engagement at all levels of the institution,” Dr Nzimande was quoted as saying at the launch of the University of Mpumalanga.
The minister also reiterated the point that higher learning and the establishment of more universities across the country is important in the reproduction and transformation of the society.
“At the University of Mpumalanga, learning and culture should embody democracy and social justice, whilst contributing to transformation, growth and development of the economy. The university must contribute to creating a non-racial and non-sexist egalitarian society underpinned by human dignity, the rule of law, a democratic ethos and human rights,” the minister stated.
Dr Nzimande also highlighted that fact that expansion of higher education institutions across the country must be accompanied by a good quality of education.