Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi has requested parliament to approve an amount of N$2.5 billion earmarked for the higher education programme out of the total budget of about N$3.6 billion allocated to the ministry.
This translates to an allocation of approximately N$926.036 million for the University of Namibia (Unam) and close to N$533.578 million for the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). She also noted the Namibian Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) was allocated about N$962.482 million, which translates to a reduction of N$230.378 million from the 2016/17 financial year.
The ministry has about five programmes that the minister is asking for funding approval. These include coordination and support (N$16.476 million), higher education (N$2.5 billion), technical vocational education and training (N$451.991 million), research, science, technology and innovation (N$55.601 million) and the national commission for UNESCO (N$17.589 million).
During her budget presentation on Wednesday, she said the higher education programme provides in a conducive learning environment, affordable and equitable, quality higher education through teaching, research and advisory services and is tailor-made to be responsive to national development needs.
She highlighted some of the key achievements under the higher education sector. These include the higher education landscape, which was broadened by registering 16 private higher education institutions in 2016.
Another milestone she singled out is the total enrolment number at Namibia’s two public universities, Unam and NUST, which stands at 35,820 students. At Unam, the number of enrolled students is 24,759 while at NUST the number of enrolled students is 11,061. For the 2017 academic year, Unam enrolled 9,492 new students, while NUST registered 4,353 new students.
She said 35 academic staff members from Unam and NUST were financially supported to strengthen their academic qualifications and obtained masters and doctoral degrees.
Further, she revealed that during the 2016/17 financial year, a total number of 12,636 tertiary education students and 4,685 technical and vocational education trainees benefited from the loans awarded.
She also said that 7,215 undergraduate students at higher education institutions and 736 post-graduate students at tertiary institutions benefited from student funding. According to her, this was in addition to the 26,980 continuing students. This figure represents an increase of 14.2 percent compared to the 2015/16 financial year.
In an attempt to make government services accessible, she said, NSFAF last year piloted an online loan and grant application system countrywide. The system allows applicants to determine if they are eligible for financial assistance from NSFAF without the need for any human intervention.
In order to enhance affordable access to higher education, the public higher education funding framework and tuition fees policy were introduced. She said the tuition fees annual increase percentage threshold calculated through this formula for the 2017/18 to 2019/20 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was 11 percent.
However, she said, after consultations with the minister of finance, heads of higher education institutions and student representative bodies, a consensus was reached to have the threshold capped at five percent due to the financial challenges faced by the country that ultimately influence the financial position of students and their parents or guardians.