Higher Education admits it has not properly supported students

Thandi Lewin says the implementation of policy decision has created challenges on various fronts.

A Wits University student says the burden of fees feels like a noose around her neck. Picture: Dineo Bendile/EWN.

PRETORIA - The Higher Education Department says while the department has improved access to tertiary institutions, it has struggled to properly support students.

This was among the submissions at the commission of enquiry into fee free higher education, which is sitting in Centurion today.

The department's Thandi Lewin says the implementation of policy decision has created challenges on various fronts.

"In the [Technical and Vocational Education and Training] sector, which is where you would expect to see larger numbers of enrolments than in the universities sector, we in fact have under a million students. But this is the sector where there's enormous growth, a period between 2010 and 2014."

The department says growing tertiary institution admission numbers and maintaining high quality at the same time creates a significant cost burden.

Lewin adds while admissions to TVET colleges have increased, the throughput levels remain low.

She says significant expenditure is required to address this problem.

"We need to invest in improving quality, which is complex. It involves having the right numbers, rightly qualified staff, addressing the curricula and investing in mechanism that support student's success.

"The colleges do not have the same level of student success inputs in a way as universities do, the universities have developed them over many years."