Constraints on improving higher education teaching and learning through funding
In the midst of massification, targeted funding has been used in various countries to address inefficiencies in teaching and learning. In South Africa, arguments have been made for significant investments to be made and the University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG) in particular is being used as a driver for improved outputs. Prior to its implementation in 2018, the UCDG comprised the Research Development Grant and the Teaching Development Grant. The Teaching Development Grant was intended to address low retention and throughput rates and ZAR5.5 billion was spent to this end over a 12-year period. The analysis presented here of all Teaching Development Grant budget plans and progress reports from 2007 to 2015 shows that the undifferentiated implementation of the Teaching Development Grant within a differentiated sector limited its potential for system-wide gains. Institutions without adequate resources tended to divert Teaching Development Grant funds to attend to backlogs rather than to address teaching and learning practices and such universities lost much of their allocation through the withholding of unspent funds. This blanket practice addressed the symptoms of underspending but not the structural, cultural and agential mechanisms that led to such under-expenditure. Uneven access to the limited teaching development expertise also impacted on the use of the grant. This call for a context-based approach to funding has been identified as a key success factor in grant interventions in both African and European universities. We recommend a sector-wide response in the form of a national body or plan for the benefit of all universities and investment in financial management enhancement.
- The study contributes to a better understanding of how government funding interventions can achieve intended goals. The study calls for a more contextualised approach to funding and to greater collaboration across the sector to maximise limited capacity.
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