FET colleges

FET colleges

  • FET College Sector Fails to Meet Great Expectations

    Much has been expected from the Further Education and Training (FET) college sector. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) looks to it to provide the intermediate-level and artisanal skills to mitigate the shortage of people to fill positions available in the technicians and associated professionals occupational category and thereby massively alleviate unemployment.

    The DHET recognises, however, that there is great unevenness in the college sector; some colleges (and some provinces) performing much better than others.

    As outlined in its Green Paper on Post-School Education and Training (2012), stronger-performing colleges are the vehicle through which the DHET seeks to expand provision.

    Against this backdrop, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was approached to undertake an audit of the sector. Accordingly it undertook, together with a range of consortium partners, a two-day audit of all 50 FET colleges in South Africa. Setting out to gauge whether colleges could operate semi-autonomously within a national dispensation under the DHET, the audit focused on college governance, management, and efficiency.

    The findings of the governance component of the FET audit show that there are shortcomings at each of the three levels of governance - college, provincial and national.

    Shortcomings at college level

    Here, there are three areas of concern:
    • College councillors - while they may on balance have the right paper qualifications for the job - display vastly differing governance skills;
    • Secondly, the fact that no college has created its own college statute or even appropriated for itself the statute proposed in the FET Colleges Act suggests a resignation to conformity rather than a quest for autonomy;
    • And thirdly, the widespread absence of any meaningful engagement with the King III principles on corporate governance bespeaks complacency, confirming the failure to act autonomously.
    Shortcomings at provincial level

    At this level there are four problem areas:
    • Arising from the policy that management staff should be appointed by the province and the remainder of the college staff by the college council, there appears to have been poor governance of the employment contracts of college staff, leading to confusion in many colleges about which staff are state-employed and which are employed by the council;
    • There has at best been uneven approval of colleges’ strategic plans - a requirement of the FET Colleges Act of 2006;
    • Given the sheer size of the schooling sector, provincial oversight of schools and FET colleges has inevitably ushered in the relative neglect of colleges that has extended to funding disparities and, in some cases, the channelling of funds earmarked for colleges to schools;
    • Provinces have not seemed to recognise, and have therefore not adequately overseen, the distinctive governance and management functions of college councils and college management teams, which has led to tensions in the ways colleges are run.
    Shortcomings at national level

    The most far-reaching problems, however, stem from decisions taken at national level. Here there were also three areas of concern:
    • The number of policy interventions and the sheer speed with which they have been introduced and replaced has contributed to instability in the college sector as a whole, and to greater instability in colleges in certain provinces than in others;
    • Policy intervention has not always been accompanied by clearly formulated plans - colleges being left in some instances to interpret policy for themselves;
    • The dual accountability effected by the employment model - management staff reporting to the province, non-management staff reporting to the college council - has ushered in many tensions among council members and management staff alike, tensions that have paralysed both college governance and college management to differing degrees in different provinces and colleges. This means, for example, that council members are not able to comment on principals’ performances since they report to the provincial director for FET.
    The cumulative effect of this litany of shortcomings is a sector that lacks clear direction in the area of college governance.
    Management issues

    From a management perspective, the audit found that, although there was compliance with most financial requirements of the FET Colleges Act of 2006, the number of qualified audits across the system suggests serious shortcomings in financial reporting. On average, each college in the country received a qualified audit in one of the three years under review - 2007, 2008, or 2009 - while some colleges had three qualified audits.

    Outside the financial sphere, the problematic management areas are the following:
    • The investigation of the effectiveness of the information and communications technology (ICT) platform revealed that colleges collectively have a long way to go in meeting the needs of their end-users; the national average score on a range of indicators being 29 out of a possible 42 points;
    • The data on college tracking of graduates and non-completers revealed that only 18 of the 50 colleges know what becomes of their students after they leave the college, and are therefore ignorant about their labour market involvement;
    • The paucity of skills development-related memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with stakeholders, a key indicator of community engagement, depicts a sector largely insulated from its place in broader society. There were, on average, two MoUs with the business sector, one with SETAs, one with other education institutions, and one with local government per college in 2009.
    Efficiency of FET colleges

    The aspect of efficiency evaluated by the FET audit was student throughput rates (defined as the portion of students successfully completing their studies) in three categories of FET college provision: the National Certificate (Vocational) (NC(V)); the NATED Report 191 (or N) programmes; and other programmes (including occupational and skills programmes).

    The sector’s flagship programme, the NC(V), achieved a national average throughput rate of 30 percent per annum over a three-year period (2007-2009).The N programmes achieved 47 percent and other programmes 66 percent. These results are of particular concern in the context of the DHET’s intention to increase enrolments in the sector to one million students by 2014, and to four million students in the post-school (non-university) sector as a whole by 2030.
    Policy considerations

    The key issues for policy consideration arising from these three areas - governance, management, and efficiency are the following:
    • The imminent shift from provincial to national governance of the FET college sector effectively places college councils on par with school governing bodies, but with more restricted powers. If councils are to be effective, their members need to be trained in college governance roles and well versed in the principles of corporate governance. Those colleges with effective governance and management capabilities will be able to achieve greater autonomy of functioning;
    • On paper, all four of the provincial governance shortcomings identified in the audit will be addressed through the shift from provincial to national oversight of the FET college sector, but the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the college sector will still happen at provincial level. The DHET will need to ensure that, whatever form that M&E takes, it addresses the tensions at provincial and college level outlined above;
    • In the light of the fact that there is a lack of policy continuity because the sector has been subjected to a number of policy interventions over a relatively short period, the DHET needs to stabilise the FET college sector through a clear determination of the role of FET colleges in the broader education and training system, particularly in the context of the restructuring of post-schooling. The orientation of college programme provision (technical versus more broadly vocational), the categories of programmes in which students could be admitted (grade 9 learners, matriculants, adult learners), and the educational and economic levels and sectors for which colleges prepare their students are key points that decisive policy and implementation must address.
    This article is based on a report entitled: Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges at a Glance in 2010. FET Colleges Audit, May - July 2010, commissioned by the National Board for Further Education and Training, subsumed by the DHET.

    To read the report, refer to http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Page-195.phtml.

    - Michael Cosser, chief research specialist, Education and Skills Development programme, HSRC. This article is republished here with the permission of HSRC.
    Michael Cosser
  • Helping Hand for Struggling FETs

    The Department of Higher Education says it has brokered a deal with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants to supply struggling Further Education and Training colleges with retired accountants to assist them.

    Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, pointed out that the department will use a portion of the R2.5 billion announced by Zuma for capacity building projects at FET colleges by appointing qualified personnel and also to upgrade campuses and build new ones.

    Speaking after President Jacob Zuma's meeting with principals and vice-principals of the 50 FET colleges, Higher Education Minister, Nzimande, stated: "Some of the things that cannot be done without the involvement of the department is the hiring of senior staff, election of governing councils, development of curriculum and funding of special projects."

    To read article titled, “Helping hand for ailing FETs,” click here.


    Sowetan Live
  • FET Colleges Must be Institutions of Choice: Zuma

    President Jacob Zuma says that further Education and Training (FET) colleges are just as important as universities and technical universities.

    Zuma points out that, "We must therefore change the mindsets in our society and enable FET Colleges to become institutions of choice for many young people, so that we can obtain much needed technical skills."

    Zuma further says that government wants school leavers, including disheartened ones, some of whom stand in street corners daily with no hope for the future, to be able to come back to the education and training system.

    To read the article titled, “FET colleges must be institutions of choice: Zuma,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Govt to Transform FET Colleges

    The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, says that South Africa’s beleaguered Further Education and Training (FET) colleges should prepare for a dramatic shake-up to address the country’s dire skills shortages.

    Nzimande says that his department envision a complete transformation of South Africa’s higher education system, currently characterised by enrolment rates at universities that are almost three times as high as those at colleges.

    The department launched the Green Paper on Post-School Education, which intends to transfer more power to college councils which have the capacity to govern themselves, while ‘weaker colleges will be steered and supported centrally to a greater extent’.

    To read the article titled, “Struggling FETs face shake-up,” click here.

    City Press
  • Government Announce Plan to Accommodate NSFAS

    Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan has announced that all government departments are required to effect unprecedented spending cuts of 0.3 percent, amounting to R6 billion, to accommodate additional funding for the National Student Finance Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

    However, the minister says he will be relying on the cooperation from his colleagues in Cabinet and also from departmental accounting officers to make this a reality.

    In the same vein, Gordhan, who says that government will be stepping up student financial assistance, states that R14 billion has been allocated to further education and training colleges for the period ahead.

    To read the full speech, click here.

    National Treasury Website
Syndicate content