South Africa's universities and technikons are to receive an extra R1.7 billion (£135 million) to support mergers and increase financial aid for poor students.
Finance minister Trevor Manuel also allocated more than R1 billion to the science and technology department, which split from the department of arts and culture last year. The government's allocation to science and technology has risen by nearly 19 per cent a year since 1999.
Higher education, which consumes 92 per cent of the national education department budget - schools are run by provincial governments - will receive R8.3 billion in the 2003-04 financial year, under the budget announced last week. This is projected to rise to R9.7 billion in 2005-06.
The national department's overall budget of R9.8 billion this year is 10 per cent up on last year.
The increased higher education budget includes R800,000 to be spent over three years to support restructuring, which will cut the number of universities and technikons from 36 to 21 and create two higher education institutes in provinces that currently have none.
But vice-chancellors are likely to dismiss the amount as inadequate for the task. In December, they predicted the cost of restructuring would be R3.6 billion over five years.
Another R280 million has been allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which has grown substantially in the past decade and last year supported about 100,000 students.
The science and technology department receives R1.03 billion, underlining the government's commitment to implementing its national research and development strategy, which promotes biotechnology, technology and innovation for advanced manufacturing, as well as strengthening government technology transfer and incubation initiatives.
Most of the money - R745 million - will go to the Science and Competitiveness Programme, which funds South Africa's national biotechnology strategy, innovation fund and the National Research Foundation. This sum will rise to R1 billion in 2005-06. In total, education got R69 billion, up 10 per cent from last year, including R59 billion to be spent on schools.