South African technikons emerged the biggest winners in education in this year's budget, which increased the total education allocation by just over 10 per cent to R32.2 million (Pounds 5.65million). Technikons - where the government wants most higher education expansion to be - got a 25.4 per cent rise over last year.
Universities were disappointed with their 10.7 per cent increase. Despite an inflation rate of 9.9 per cent last year - and of just under 7 per cent when food inflation is excluded - this represents a small real terms decrease. Last year's increase for universities was 11.5 per cent.
South Africa remains one of the highest education spenders in the world, with around 7 per cent of gross national product and more than a fifth of the total budget committed to the whole sector. An extra 3 billion rand was allocated to education this year.
Johan Brink, director of information services for the Committee of University Principals, said that the "A value" of universities - the fraction describing what universities receive from the state divided by what they should get through the subsidy formula - had "dropped a little bit".
The inflation rate for universities is generally a couple of percentage points higher than the general inflation rate, he pointed out. because of the high rate of increase on the kind of resources they require and the need to import much of their equipment and materials with a currency declining in value.
Dr Brink said: "Universities have also increased in size, meaning that the allocation per student has decreased." Enrolments in South African higher education have risen by an annual average of around 7 per cent since 1990.
However, universities are not generally opposed to the large increase in funding for technikons. "It has long been government policy for the technikon sector to grow larger than the university sector, to meet manpower requirements," said Dr Brink.
Technikons have suffered a funding backlog over many years, and the increased allocation is aimed at both growth in the sector and upgrading of resources.