The number of first-year students taking up studies in sciences and engineering at universities is on the rise. This is good news for the economy as South Africa is experiencing a shortage of skilled people in these fields.
According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, a total of about 180 000 students are studying in these field this year. This up by 6,8 per cent from last year's projection of 175 072 students. In 2010, the enrolment was 168 408 students
Director General of Higher Education, Gwebinkundla Qonde noted a rise in the number of veterinarian first-year students, saying that a total of 184 students were expected to enrol this year. This is up by 145 per cent from last year's projection of 95 students. Plans are on the cards to take up more students in this area.
He said in 2010, 75 students enrolled for the programme, adding that universities had the capacity to meet the growing number vet students but more should be done to help them.
Oonde said they were negotiating with Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Pretoria and North West University to increase the number of students in veterinary science.
He said they were also in negotiations with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for the acquisition of a farm which would be used by the University of Pretoria and the University of South Africa, among others, for veterinary studies and research.
He emphasised the fact that most universities offering medical sciences were looking at increasing enrolments but lacked funds for such expansions.
Meanwhile, 270 000 students nationwide have enrolled at various Further Education Training (FET) colleges for the 2012 academic year, an increase of 60 per cent compared to 2011.
This year, these colleges opened up more space to absorb a further 17 145 students which had initially not been accommodated due to programmes being full.
FET colleges director Steven Mommen said 46 272 students had enrolled for the Engineering National Certificate (Vocational) and
38 116 had registered for N1-N3 engineering certificate.
He added that the demand for engineering studies had gone up by 70 per cent compared to last year.