To: Minister of Higher Education, Training, Science and Technology
REVIEW DISCRIMINATORY NRF Postgraduate Scholarship and Funding Framework 2021
We write to you Honourable Minister with serious concerns regarding the NRF revised funding criteria for post-grad students in South African universities. The NRF has released a report titled “NRF Postgraduate Scholarship Applications and Funding Framework 2021’’ in which it has imposed age restrictions for 2021 applicants. It is our view that the age restriction across all level of postgraduate studies (Honours to doctoral level) is discriminatory in nature and will preclude many South Africans mainly blacks to pursue post-grad studies due to financial constraints because of age, thus compromising the spirit of the country’s vision 2030 as espoused by the National Development Plan.
We call upon you Minister to reconsider this criteria in the spirit of generating new knowledge useful for engagement about social, scientific and environmental issues together with the competencies necessary for participation in complex modern societies. Funding to higher education shouldn’t be exclusionary on the basis of age because education has the pre-eminent role in the development of public consciousness and value systems in society.
We submit that there should be standardization of funding across the spectrum for master’s programme by research at an amount of R180 000 and PhD funded at least from R300 000 pa. For these are reasonable figures to cover student expenses mostly and have no second thoughts to get employment whilst studying.
Why is this important?
For an example chapter 9 of the NDP articulates our weakness by global standards in relation to national research and innovation systems, revealing amongst other things that there has been little increase to public research workforce, PhDs and research outputs. The honourable Minister will be acutely aware that the country’s global competitiveness requires drastic improvement and presently the distribution of research capacity in higher education institutions of learning is still skewed towards white institutions.
We recognize that the racial history affected most facets of life, including but not limited to the labour market and education system. As result, the democratic government had a responsibility to reconcile the racial divide in relation to education and training system and labour market. It had to usher a wide scale of reforms of public policies meant to redress the racial past which characterised what scholars called ‘low skills regime’. Thus, we believe that the age restriction imposed on the NRF will have far reaching for South Africans especially the black who aspire to study up to doctoral level.