Tertiary education funding to be overhauled

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Government will continue with its current tertiary education financing scheme through the provision of grants and loans, although the sustainability of the funding model is threatened, education authorities have said.

According to the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) chief executive officer, Dr Patrick Molutsi, the country needs to overhaul the entire tertiary education system for efficiency and value for investment.

Molutsi told Mmegi recently that the current funding model would continue in the meantime, even as speculation of a novel cost-sharing structure for 2015 run wild through the student community.

“Nothing has changed, and nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future without thorough national consultation,” Molutsi said.

While Molutsi dismissed reports that tertiary learners would have to foot their own tuition bills this year, he said an overhaul of the system was critical given the numerous inefficiencies emanating from poor planning within it.

“There is a lot of duplication of programmes within the system,” he said. “Take for instance the Institutes of Health Sciences where they do general nursing as opposed to having specialisation within the different training facilities in the country,” noted Molutsi.

He added that, “It is important to rationalise the efficiency of the nursing education facilities. Rationalisation of programmes, not just the nursing ones, would indirectly affect sponsorship in that this would do away with sponsoring duplicated programmes and those with an over-supply in the market”.

Molutsi explained that HRDC is committed to directing sponsorship funds towards disciplines that are in short supply in the economy. This, he said, would also address the undesired results of the current skills mismatch caused by a poorly planned tertiary education system. 

“In the process of improving planning on the one hand, we would be improving funding efficiency on the other. This, however, would not affect learners already in the system,” he said.

Overhauling the system, Molutsi added, entails designing quotas that would be considered by tertiary education providers when enrolling students for programmes of study. In line with economic priority areas, the HRDC would stipulate the number of learners to be trained in specific fields for each higher learning institute.

The Council also envisions the establishment of a revolving Student Support Fund, which is expected to eventually require no input from government.

The current fund, run by the Department of Tertiary Education Finance (DTEF), was initially designed to revolve with past beneficiaries paying back to new learners. However, that has not been the case, due in part to student loan arrears on the part of beneficiaries.

After learning from the mistakes of the previous fund, Molutsi said the DTEF would be dissolved in order to centralise tertiary funding. Already, the Human Resources Development Levy, previously run by the Botswana Qualifications Authority, has moved to the HRDC for harmonisation of human resources development financing in Botswana.

“We will also employ a fund manager to ensure the optimum operation of this fund,” Molutsi said.

“It has to generate interest in the manner that pension schemes, for instance, do.”

 The HRDC CEO said all former DTEF employees would be redeployed when the department is dissolved.

The HRDC plans to enhance repayment of student loans by partnering with the Botswana Unified Revenue Service in order to access employed beneficiaries, in the same way tax is collected.

The payment of allowances will also be overhauled, as the HRDC wants these paid through Botswana Post but only after tertiary institutions provide a list of active students whose school attendance is also satisfactory.

Discussions between government, HRDC and Botswana Post have started and are at an advanced stage, Molutsi said.

“Ultimately we will move towards performance-based funding,” he said.

“It is only through producing the relevant skills, which is achievable through well planned enrollment, that we will would acquire the necessary skills to diversify and grow the economy.

“At the moment, there is no feedback from tertiary institutions on how students are performing. Institutions of higher learning will be forced to work extra hard to ensure quality education and good performance by students under the reformed tertiary education system.

“Should they fail, their enrollment quotas would be adversely affected.”

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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