Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor this week outlined the progress on the implementation of expanded education subsidies following former president Jacob Zuma’s announcement late last year that the government would fully subsidise higher education for students whose parents earned less than R350‚000.

Pandor said the government will support poor and working class students through an expanded bursary scheme, which replaces the previous loan and partial bursary scheme.

“The scheme will be phased in over a five-year period, starting in the 2018 academic year with first-time entry university students only. By the end of the five-year phase-in period, all undergraduate university students eligible (in line with the new threshold) in all years of study will be funded,” she said.

“All students on the scheme will sign bursary agreements that include various conditions and commitments. The phase-in is in line with both affordability and the enrollment plans that have been approved and negotiated based on available funding for the system, infrastructure and staffing capacity of institutions.

“Although first time entering students will not be expected to pay back the cost of their bursaries, they will be expected to meet certain conditions and expectations, including those relating to satisfactory academic performance and service conditions,” she explained.

Additional government funding of R7.166 billion has been allocated in 2018 to fund bursaries for children of poor and working class families entering universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges – with R4.581 billion set aside for qualifying university students and R2.585 billion allocated for TVET college students.

Pandor said good progress had been made since last year’s announcement and that that the new bursary scheme had been implemented successfully. She said in the case of TVET students‚ 458‚875 students would receive tuition bursaries. In the case of university students‚ the new funding allocation for first-time entry students is expected to fund about 83‚200 of the 208‚000 spaces for new entrants at universities this year.

Pandor said all existing Nsfas-funded university students would receive their funding this year and for the completion of their studies as grants rather than loans.