USAf says no “walk-ins” will be allowed at public universities

HENRI UYS

On 1 January, Universities South Africa (USAf) said in a media statement that “walk-ins” will not be allowed at any university.

The statement read that “Following the announcement made by President Zuma on the 16th of December 2017 about what he called ‘free education for the poor and working class’, Universities SA (USAf) met with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to discuss the implications of that announcement. Much to our dismay, we discovered at that meeting that the decision of the government to implement the new system was a fait accompli (meaning that if something has been decided before those affected have heard about it, they have no other option but to accept it).

The statement describes that it was then the universities’ task to work out how to implement the new NSFAS provisions in ways that are most effective and beneficial to current and students potential students.

According to the statement, applications to universities closed at the end of 2017, thus no “walk-in” applications will be considered. The statement said that universities would abide by their enrolment plans and targets, which are agreed [upon] between each university and the DHET. USAf also said that it understood clearly that there are first year students who didn’t previously qualify for financial aid but who now do, under the new NSFAS dispensation and that “a clearly defined pathway should be established for such potential candidates”.

Such students, whether they had applied to NSFAS or not, must submit their details online to the DHET’s Central Applications Clearing House (CACH). This system was specifically established “to address the placement of students who did not apply to any university but who now qualify and wish to be considered for an academic space”.

“We therefore call on students and parents who are anxious to determine if they qualify for the new NSFAS dispensation to follow this route”, the statement reads.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema, said in a 2017 end-of-year message, “We must make sure that in 2018 all academically deserving students are admitted freely in SA universities and FET colleges. We call upon all those who passed matric extremely well in the past and found themselves as petrol attendants, retail or security workers because they could not afford university fees, to report to the academic institution of their choice next year.”

USAf criticised calls for walk-ins, saying in a statement “USAf is deeply concerned by the call made by some political leaders for students to simply turn up at universities for enrolment without having made appropriate prior arrangements for their admission. This is unfortunate as it may result in a replay of events with potential to cause injury to students and their families. We recall with deep anxiety the event at the University of Johannesburg in January 2012, which resulted in the tragic death of a parent.”

USAf expressed its concerns surrounding Pres. Zuma’s announcement last month, including the timing and “absence of a clear implementation strategy” of the new fee system. “We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the use of the student fee issue as a political football. This is not just disingenuous but also opens the way for the issue to be used for purely political purposes as we have just seen. We therefore implore all political parties and student leaders to adopt a responsible approach to this new development in the public higher education sector and to work in concert with the universities in addressing the challenges that may engulf the start of the new academic year in 2018”, the statement concludes.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hlengiwe Mkhize, also condemned the calls for students to simply show up at universities. Mkhize was quoted on eNCA’s website: “There is no way in which a person can walk in and expect to be registered. We are enhancing communication clarifying using all channels so that people understand that announcement did not mean that we are changing what is a standard practice in any institution of higher learning be at university or TVET college. I expect all (Vice-Chancellors) to be doing the same to communicate and speak to students on how one gets into a university.”

UP reminded students in a tweet that registrations for 2018 are only available online. “For the past four years, the University of Pretoria has successfully implemented a fully online application and registration process. This enabled students to apply and register online without having to come on to the campus prior to the start of the academic year. However, special call centres as well as administrative support, specifically for the first-year intake, will be made available to students who require assistance with online registration.” UP said that all the necessary information is available on the university website. UP explained that only approximately 9 500 students of over 38 000 applications can be accommodated. Applications for new students closed on 30 September 2017. Up advised first-time students who have not yet applied to contact the Central Application Clearing House.

 

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