Absa Bank has donated R10m toward supporting “missing middle” undergraduate students at the University of the Witwatersrand. The money would be allocated for the funding of at least 250 students. It is in addition to the annual R2m, 10-year sponsorships of 20 Wits bursary students who are contracted to be employed by Absa on completion of their studies.

Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said the donation will go a long way in assisting poor, talented students. “Wits University and many of the other universities offer quality degrees that are well recognised in the world, and we produce world-class professionals. If we are going to keep our universities functional and retain the quality, then we need to ensure that we get all the stakeholders participating in the university system. The private sector is one such participant.”

Long-term solutions

Three very distinctive partnerships could emerge between universities and the private sector, Habib said. “The first is as a donor to support scholarship. The second is as partners where they support research by establishing research chairs and having corporate research arms established at universities. And third, and very importantly, [is] working with us in rethinking our curriculum.”

He said what was required of the professional in 2016 was “profoundly different” from what was required sixteen years ago. “We need to constantly innovate in our curriculum, and having private sector engagement in our curriculum committees is absolutely important in facilitating a curriculum that speaks to the realities of the economy, of the corporates and to the skillsets that our students require.” Absa CEO Maria Ramos said the company felt it had a responsibility to contribute while long-term solutions to higher education funding were developed. Students in September started protests over free education after Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande announced he would cap university fee increments at 8%. *story by news24.com