Educor given a phase-out period for pipeline students

Damelin, CityVarsity, Icesa City Campus and Lyceum College were deregistered by Higher Education Department director-general Nkosinathi Sishi.

Damelin, CityVarsity, Icesa City Campus and Lyceum College were deregistered by Higher Education Department director-general Nkosinathi Sishi.

Published Mar 27, 2024


The “dysfunctional” four private colleges under Education Investment Corporation (Educor) have been given time to phase out pipeline students in efforts to prevent more than 13 000 students being left in the lurch.

Damelin, CityVarsity, Icesa City Campus and Lyceum College were deregistered by Higher Education Department director-general Nkosinathi Sishi.

According to a gazetted notice, the institutions failed to submit their annual financial statements and the tax clearance certificates for the 2021 and 2022 years as proof of their financial viability.

Educor has been ordered to reimburse students where it is due. In the case of their failure to do so, students have been advised to seek legal action.

Some of the allegations faced by the institutions include poorly qualified staff, corruption and bribery, lack of response to requests for refunds, and non-payment of staff salaries.

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, Minister Blade Nzimande said the private colleges were required to lodge an appeal with him on or before September 26, 2023; however, they requested an extension which was last month, and were now seeking a further extension to October.

“In addition to failing to submit evidence of their financial viability to the department, the four Educor brands can be deemed as dysfunctional and this is mainly measured against the daily complaints and grievances received from students, most of which remain unresolved,” said Nzimande.

It further emerged that the Higher Education quality committee has withdrawn the accreditation of some programmes for the four colleges and that they allegedly lied about having 50 000 students in the system as annual reports indicated 13 096.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Prof Blade Nzimande. Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

Nzimande said that for years the department had been inundated with complaints about the institutions and the matter reached boiling point as the institutions recently left some students stranded when some campuses were abruptly closed. These included Damelin in Cape Town and East London due to arrears with the municipalities, CityVarsity in Braamfontein, because staff withdrew services due to non-payment of salaries, and Lyceum’s only campus was evicted as they failed to pay rent.

“All stakeholders are expressing some sort of concern for the affected students. In this regard, Educor will be given a phase-out period in which to phase out pipeline students. One challenge for students is the transfer of credits considering the RPL and Credit Accumulation Transfer policy and another challenge could be students repeating some modules or paying extra fees.

“The cancellation of the registration of CityVarsity will take immediate effect; it must not enrol new students on any year of the programme, must submit a teach-out plan to both the department and the CHE within two weeks, the teach-out plan must also include the number of learners in the pipeline and when learner records will be uploaded onto the National Learners’ Records Database.

“The teach-out plan must indicate that returning students who did not complete the programme within the stipulated time and that they would need to complete their programme at another institution and students must be informed accordingly,” said Nzimande.

Damelin lecturer Sbongile Ngomonde from Gauteng said as breadwinners they were scared of losing their jobs and others have been trying to look for jobs but were unsuccessful.

“We told managers they were supposed to have informed us as staff so that we also calm the students. We had to wait for the minister to speak, but there is still no relief or guarantees. This has been long coming and we wish the minister could have intervened sooner. Most of us are breadwinners and we don’t know what our next step will be.”

South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) welcomed the deregistration of the four Educor institutions, saying they flagrantly disregarded labour practices, violating the rights of workers and technically abusing them through an incompetent managerial style.

“Lecturers and other categories of workers across Educor institutions approached Saftu in 2023 after they were mistreated by the four colleges. Of many issues workers highlighted was late payment of wages or salaries had become a norm. This problem continued despite us writing to them and making public appeals for this to end. The proof is found in the fact that they paid December 2023 and January 2024 salaries on February 7. They only paid workers when they realised that the Department of Higher Education had launched a probe.

“Most lecturers at Damelin College were employed permanently before Covid-19. During Covid-19, they were retrenched and immediately rehired, but put on fixed-term contracts from late 2020. This practice violated section 198B of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) which provides for employees who are employed on fixed-term contracts to be deemed permanent if the contracts are extended longer than three months,” said Saftu spokesperson Trevor Shaku.

Cape Times