Higher Education Department invests in the future

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is investing in infrastructure to provide quality teaching, learning, research and innovation spaces in the post-school education and training (PSET) sector.

This is according to Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, who on Monday opened the University of the Western Cape Education Facility precinct and the Unibell Residence at the Bellville Campus in the Western Cape.

Nzimande said his department will continue to prioritise infrastructure development at historically disadvantaged universities to ensure that maintenance backlogs are addressed and the quality of infrastructure delivery management is improved at these institutions.

“This is among the reasons that we have reviewed our current existing model of cooperation with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to make it more effective and in line with our plans of using our PSET infrastructure to stimulate local economic development and inclusion.

“Our determination to strengthen and grow the PSET system is of late being demonstrated by our investments in the feasibility studies of the new universities of Science and Innovation, and a new Crime Detection University through the Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant (IEG) to the value of R6 million,” he said.

The Minister said both the University of the Western Cape’s projects are significant in scale and will certainly add tremendous value to the university, its academic focus and the living and learning experience of students.

The University Master Development Plan 2014, focusing on precinct development, introduced the Faculty of Education Precinct.

The Minister mentioned that this is also in line with their new designed model of education precincts, which he launched in a pilot project in KwaZulu Natal, called the Imbali Education and Innovation Precinct.

This project is aimed at exploring and testing an alternative modality of education delivery, based on closer multi-educational institutional co-operation, closer articulation, with strong science and innovation linkages.

“Such integration through precincts… will ensure that we produce well- rounded students who are ready to take up their positions within our economy and society. Our next similar precinct to be established will be in Giyani in Limpopo, where we have already started to set up a university campus as well.

“This is the reason why I am pleased … to launch another precinct which signifies a substantial next phase in the university’s focus on precinct development on its main campus, and the adaptive re-use of existing infrastructure to give new life to older buildings,” Nzimande said.

The Minister added that he was pleased that progress with this strategy was largely driven by the rate at which the science precinct is being developed. This includes the Life and Chemical Sciences buildings, the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry building as well as the Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CAMS) building.

The Unibell student accommodation is part of the Phase 1 of the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP), of which the University of the Western Cape is allocated 2720 beds.

The project is also significant as it demonstrates the Department of Higher Education and Training’s commitment towards its partnership with universities and the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in the provision of quality student housing infrastructure facilities.

It is also a practical demonstration that government is committed to addressing student housing backlogs.

The Minister highlighted that a wide range of partners including the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), National Treasury (NT) and EU through its Infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa (IIPSA) committed to supporting the Department’s Student Housing Infrastructure Programme by providing financial support for the development of student housing projects on universities and college campuses.

“Many public universities and TVET colleges have not been able to make sufficient investments in the maintenance and expansion of their student housing portfolios, largely due to financial constraints.

“In order to assist them, my Department established the SHIP project which was aimed at addressing student housing backlog through the implementation of large student housing projects that deliver more than 1000 student beds each across universities and TVET Colleges,” he said.

From the onset, SHIP was established to ensure that a minimum of 60% of the student beds it delivers are for campuses in rural and peri-urban areas.

The Minister said that one critical element of ensuring access to quality higher education and training, and success in the system, is investment in student housing infrastructure to ensure quality teaching, learning and a conducive student living and learning environment. – SAnews.gov.za