The Higher Education Department says the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on university expenditure is over R3.8 billion.

This was revealed by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande in a written response to a parliamentary question from DA MP Belinda Bozzoli.

The DA MP wanted to know the effect on normal university expenditure in each university resulting from the cuts in the university block grant of R2.5bn.

Nzimande said the Covid-19 pandemic had already had an impact on normal university expenditure, and substantial savings were realised with the postponement of a range of activities such as cancelled conferences and limited travel and accommodation.

Nzimande also said there had been general savings on services such as electricity and water.

Blade Nzimande

“Considering all of these aspects, including the funding required to assist the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funded students to acquire laptops, the total financial impact is R3.8506 billion,” Nzimande said.

He also said the amount was funded partially from the R745 million by the institutions’ internal reprioritisation through reprioritising unspent earmarked grants and R1.332 billion interest on earmarked grants at institutions.

There were also funds made available by NSFAS for advances on allowances to fund laptops costing R2.5bn for university and TVET college students.

“Institutions estimated that they would require R1.8bn for ensuring that their campuses are compliant to health and safety protocols when they reintegrate staff and students in line with their return-to-campus plans.

“Some plans had unnecessary high-cost items and the department has indicated that it could not support those items,” Nzimande said.

The minister said his department has identified R608m subject to ministerial approval to support institutions to implement their return to campus plans.

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Source: IOL