Johannesburg — It's all systems go for the 2013 varsity academic year, with the admission and registration process well underway at tertiary institutions across the country.
"We are ready for 2013. The admission process is proceeding fairly well. As the department, we are working very closely with [institutions] to ensure that many of the challenges that often erupt at this time of the year are better managed," said Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande.
Speaking at The New Age business briefing on Thursday, Nzimande said there were 183 893 spaces available at universities for students entering the system for the first time, while there were 100 000 spaces available at Further Education and Training (FET) colleges
The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), meanwhile, had 18 000 learneship opportunities.
"The number of spaces that are still available will only be [known] when the institutions complete registration. As the department, we have established a dedicated unit which works closely with universities in trying to resolve challenges as they arise.
"Universities also have dedicated personnel who serve as the first port of call for the department to raise any issues it sees fit to raise. These officials provide the department with regular reports and feedback on developments as they unfold at institutions," said Nzimande.
Nzimande said the department had also started compiling a weekly update on the state of every institution's registration process.
Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana will also monitor the situation across the system by communicating with universities and the public through the media, and by visiting institutions and where necessary, provide support.
Nzimande made an earnest appeal to employers to create space for FET graduates, where they can get practical work experience for 18 months.
"We have 11 000 FET graduates which were produced between 2009 and 2011, who require placement... Our goal is to ensure that all FET graduates get work places," he said.
Nzimande said the department had also opened SETA offices in FET colleges to assists students with learnership opportunities.
"In 2012, the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority provided bursaries for students in FETs to the value of R27 million.
"The SETAs are now starting to work more closely with the public FETs and some universities to fund skills development programmes of various types," he said.
He also suggested that universities should work closely with FETs so that students who have completed a year at a FET college and want to proceed to university can be credited; and that universities should assists FETs if they see that their training is not up to the required standard.
Nzimande said over the next 20 years, the department plans to expand the FET college sector to ensure that there is a college in every education district.