Sona Preview: Sizable funding sought for new universities’ project

There is increasing momentum behind the plan to open South Africa’s two new universities, which are anticipated to provide undergraduate and graduate degrees.

However, a sizable amount of funding is still needed to get the project off the ground.

This was the response that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, gave this week in response to Sunday World’s questions regarding progress in creating the new universities.

During his 2020 State of the Nation Address (Sona), Ramaphosa announced the establishment of a new science and innovation university in Ekurhuleni.

Additionally, he declared a brand-new crime detection university in Pretoria’s Hammanskraal.

After a span of four years, Magwenya said the Department of Higher Education and Training had formed a project steering committee, whose task was to supervise the feasibility studies.

Feasibility studies conducted

The committee consisted of officials from the department and senior officials in academia.

“The initial feasibility studies have been conducted for the establishment of the proposed two new higher education institutions,” said Magwenya.

“The first phase of the feasibility study was concluded in the 2022–2023 financial year.

“Following further consultation with senior SAPS [South African Police Service] leaders, it became evident that a university of crime and policing studies, as opposed to a college, would be acceptable to allow for both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

“The same rationale has been applied to the University of Science and Innovation to ensure that both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications are offered from the start in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]-related disciplines.”

Magwenya explained further: “Among the key issues coming out of the first phase of the feasibility study is the significant funding that is required to enable the successful establishment of the two universities, especially in recognition of the fiscal constraints we are facing.

“The second phase of the feasibility studies will focus on the funding requirements and the institutional design of the two universities, as well as possible third-stream income.”

Additionally, he said the scope of the project further extends to the following tasks:

  • conducting an audit of the qualifications, expertise, and capacity of existing staff at Hammanskraal police academy to determine skills gaps and requirements for the new higher education institutions and developing a talent acquisition model;
  • exploring the feasibility of establishing collaborative partnerships and/or a consortium with universities already offering postgraduate qualifications with various specialisations in crime and policing studies;
  • conduct international benchmarking to assess the enhancement of education and training through next-generation technologies;
  • investigate the various modalities of articulation pathways between the TVET (technical, vocational, educational and training) sector and the new higher education institutions;
  • explore the development of articulation pathways at the postgraduate level between the new higher education institutions and partnering universities.
Consolidated report to be tabled

“Once the second phase of the feasibility study is completed, a consolidated report will be tabled with the cabinet for approval and further direction for the commencement of the next steps of the project,” he added.

Spokesman for the Department of Higher Education and Training, Veli Mbele, confirmed receiving a list of questions from Sunday World on Friday last week and promised to reply by Tuesday.

Nevertheless, even after multiple reminders, Mbele had not replied at the time of publishing. The story will be updated once he has responded.

  • Ramaphosa will deliver his eighth Sona during the joint sitting of parliament taking place at Cape Town City Hall tonight at 7pm.

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