Private sector key for higher education, says top academic

Jan 27 2017 11:24
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Public private partnerships are the answer to South Africa’s higher education funding dilemma, according to Professor Piet Naudé, director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Speaking at a half-day seminar hosted by the USB and the Institute for Future Research on Friday, Naudé discussed how the country’s education system can be reshaped to meet future challenges.

“I see no reason why government shouldn’t go to one or two big listed companies and say: 'We will provide the building costs, but you need to manage the project for us (to erect a new college or university)'."

Naudé said universities and colleges can no longer fund themselves and will need to form partnerships with the private sector.

He cited examples such as where Netcare helps build a medical faculty, or the big construction companies an engineering faculty.

Shift focus to practical training

According to Naudé, government should not only increase the number of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges, but also change the curricula of the colleges.

“These institutions should be offering vocational training, such as electricians and people who know about sewerage, but instead these colleges offer business courses.”

In addition, South Africa’s universities should divide into two segments:

- Type A universities which are places of teaching and learning and where first degrees are four years in duration; and

- Type B universities which are more research-orientated and where degrees in specialist professions, such as architecture and engineering, are offered.

Fees must fall: slow and inadequate response

What lies ahead?

As far as the Fees Must Fall matter is concerned, Naudé is of the view that government will again be slow and inadequate in its response.

“The students came with a very well-argued case in 2015, yet we waited for almost a year before there was a response from government.”

He foresees continued disruption at universities in the coming year, with “pockets of normality”. 

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