Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Not enough space at tertiary institutions for all new matrics

Concerns have mounted over how many of matriculants will be able to access tertiary education.

Tens of thousands of matriculants who studied hard to gain a university pass are going to be disappointed this year, as many face rejections from public universities unable to meet the demand for space.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande, speaking to the media about the readiness of technical and vocational education and training (Tvet) colleges and universities for the 2023 academic year, said first-year enrolments had been projected at 208 299 nationally.

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“The overall total enrolments within the public university sector for the 2023 academic year is projected to provide 1.1 million spaces, an additional 41 545,” he said. “This is an [increase] from the 1.07 million in the 2022 academic year.”

With more than 830 000 students having passed matric last year, concerns have mounted over how many of them will be able to access tertiary education.

First-time entrants

According to the Universities South Africa chief executive Dr Phethiwe Matutu, the estimated number of spaces available for first-time entrants across public universities was 196 324.

“To begin with, universities, in particular, use various and unique admission point scores to accept applications.

“While we’ve seen the number of applications across universities, they just determine the demand for higher education since one student can apply to 10 universities,” Matutu said.

“A better determinant of supply and demand is the number of good-quality bachelor passes. In this case we had 278 815 bachelor passes and 197 357 diploma passes.”

Professor Khehla Ndlovu, the University of South Africa’s (Unisa) vice-principal for strategy, risk and advisory services, reiterated what Matutu said and noted the higher education sector could only accommodate one million students a year, excluding further education and training colleges.

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“Although every year there is [about] R2 billion set aside for infrastructure development, the infrastructure does not necessarily take into account new students,” he said.

Ndlovu said this was likely to worsen and add to the youth unemployment rate if it remained unaddressed.

South Africans needed to be creative with job creation to ensure those who are just taking up space in higher institutions of learning leave to enable other students to get into the system.

According to recent reports, the University of Witwatersrand received well over 100 000 applications with only 6 000 first-year places available.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal announced it had 8 500 places available. However, 250 000 applicants had applied, while the University of Johannesburg had about 10 500 openings.

The University of Cape Town received 51 000 first-year applications. with only 4 200 spaces available.

Tvet colleges

Nzimande urged students to also consider the Tvet colleges because “we have started considering the blended learning mode as an alternative to accommodate more students”.

“Our Tvet colleges’ planned headcount enrolment for 2023 is 497 032 for the ministerial approved programmes,” he said.

“An additional 59 383 headcount enrolment for programmes funded through other sources [brings] the total planned Tvet enrolment for this academic year to 556 415.

“We acknowledge this figure is still substantially lower than the 2.5 million students’ enrolment plan in Tvet colleges by 2030 as projected by the National Development Plan.

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“We are, however, working hard on our plans to ensure that we accelerate the growth of our Tvet sector,” Nzimande said.

Matutu advised those who were rejected and could not find space in universities for their chosen programmes to consider Tvet colleges and the post-school education and training sector.

“Tvet colleges offer a wide range of training in high-level artisanship and trades,” she said.

“Many self-employed artisans and tradesmen in industry were Tvet-trained and doing phenomenally well – proving Tvets provide a viable post-school study option.

“Within the post-school education and training sector, we also have private institutions. There’s an array of options to choose from for these prospective students.”

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