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Minister courts universities with research fund promises

Image: GovernmentZA [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Nzimande says department is lobbying to expand skills programme

South Africa’s science minister has said his department is lobbying to expand a national skills development programme to support research at universities.

The news came in a statement issued by Blade Nzimande last week, in which he said the Department of Science and Innovation is working on a pitch to the National Skills Fund.

Research funding has taken a hit in recent years with cuts brought on first by fiscal tightening, then by the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposed partnership will be the first time dedicated research money is available from the fund.

“The aim is to broaden the scope of the NSF to include research skills development that will take place at universities with the aim of benefiting the business sector,” said Nzimande.

Part of a bigger plan

The move is part of a larger DSI drive to leverage more finance from other government departments to offset dwindling allocations from the National Treasury.

The NSF falls under the Department of Higher Education and Training. It funds bursaries and scholarships in areas identified as national priorities, leadership and skills programmes, and workplace-based training. It is funded by skills development levies paid by companies as mandated by national legislation.

Nzimande also said that the forthcoming decadal implementation plan for science policy will boost universities’ research coffers, although he did not specify how.

“Significant investments will be made towards supporting research performed at universities, as these institutions collectively are the largest contributors in the generation of new knowledge,” he said.