There has been much alarm around the news that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) might be defunding teaching and nursing degrees. But that is actually not the case.
According to Prof. Lee Rusznyak, deputy head of school for teacher education at the University of the Witwatersrand, funding is not being cut for the bachelor of education and nursing degrees.
In early February 2020, a circular was sent out from Nsfas that a list of funded qualifications per institution is currently under review in consultation with the department of higher education and training (DHET). When this curricular was revealed, many assumed that this meant funding would be stopped for the education and nursing degrees.
In a statement, Nsfas said in July 2016 a government gazette was published by minister Dr. Blade Nzimande. This gazette indicated that December 31 2019 would be the last date for the first time entering students to consider studying or registering for academic programmes that are not aligned with DHET qualifications Sub-Framework. These qualifications are referred to as legacy qualifications.
Rusznyak said around a decade ago there was a change in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). An additional two levels were added. These changes in the The Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF) provided for the establishment of a single qualifications framework for higher education to facilitate the development of a single national co-ordinated higher education system. The HEQSF, in line with the previous framework, provides the basis for integrating all higher education qualifications into the NQF.
So what the circular from Nsfas refers to is that they will longer fund students on any qualifications that were approved under the old structure. They will continue to fund new students for the degrees under the new structure. As the changes were introduced almost ten years ago, most institutions should have phased out the old legacy qualifications. Rusznyak said Nsfas is no longer funding qualifications that should have been phased out as they were under a different qualifications framework.
Students who are already enrolling in these legacy qualifications may continue and complete their qualifications as their funding will not be affected. Universities are required to register first-time entrance students on the new qualifications aligned to the Higher Education Qualification Sub Framework (HEQS) as from the 2020 academic year. Therefore the Bachelor of Nursing and the BEd – NQF level 7 replace the BCurr and the NQF level 8 – Bachelor of Education (BEd) qualifications and are both NSFAS funded qualifications.
“The qualifications that institutions should be offering should be aligned to the new national qualifications framework. New students are expected to start these studies under the current curricula and not the legacy ones,” said Rusznyak.