Thu Dec 08 16:24:21 SAST 2016

Blade - where are those extra varsity places you promised?

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-01-10 00:02:38.0

The Times Editorial: Tens of thousands of aspirant students queued outside some of our top universities yesterday, desperate for a first-rate education.

For many of them the stakes are incredibly high - being admitted to a decent varsity could mean the difference between a prosperous career and a menial job - perhaps unemployment.

Tragically, more than 180000 youngsters who got a university exemption are likely to be denied the opportunity of full-time study this year. There are simply not enough places for them at our better universities.

At the University of Johannesburg alone, about 74000 hopefuls will probably be turned away this year. The university has a first-year intake of only 11000 and would be hard-pressed to accommodate more.

Many other universities are also being swamped. Wits, which has 5500 spaces for first-years, received 30000 applications, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal processed 61500 applications but can admit only 9000 first-years.

It remains to be seen whether Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande will be able to deliver on his promise last year that he would make space for 180000 more first-year entrants this year.

Before a university can increase the number of places it offers, it has to ensure that it has adequate teaching and support staff, lecture halls, and facilities such as laboratories, libraries and accommodation.

It is incumbent on our education authorities to establish more high-quality technical colleges to provide an alternative for students who are not suited to academic studies.

And if this means restructuring the high school syllabus, so be it.

Our economy desperately needs more skilled artisans - electricians, welders, boilermakers and builders - if it is to grow at the rate required to create jobs in numbers sufficient to make inroads into the unacceptable unemployment rate.

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