UCT’s decision to allow students with historical debt to register for the 2022 academic year has been lauded by education activists Hendrick Makaneta who called on other institutions to follow suit.
On Monday, the UCT Council convened a special meeting to discuss the difficult issue of unpaid fees that are preventing some students from re-registering for the new academic year.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said: “We applaud the Council of UCT for taking a conscious decision to allow students to register.
“The decision will certainly go a long way to ensure that students are able to create a future for themselves.
“We also call on other universities to follow the example of UCT and allow their students with debt to also register for the academic year 2022.”
The issue of students historical debt is a national problem and according to the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande about R16.5 billion was owed to public universities by students.
At UCT alone, R317.8 million was owed by students.
Chairperson of Council Babalwa Ngonyama said the university provides financial support annually to about 50% of undergraduate students and about 35% of postgraduate students.
This is about R1.7bn.
The university said for some students – but not all – Council had agreed in 2021 to suspend the block on students re-registering for the 2021 academic year.
The suspension was for one year only and, for the 2022 academic year, students with fee arrears of more than R10 000 have so far not been permitted to register, subject to appeal.
“However, we also know that there are students with fee debt higher than R10 000 who have the potential to complete their courses of study.
“The special meeting of Council was called to consider the plight of these students,” said Ngonyama.
UCT, last week, was forced to close after student protests.
The students called for the suspension of classes until all students were registered.
Some of the outcomes of the Council meeting included:
- The current fee block on student registrations should be removed for the 2022 academic year for all students who are eligible to re-register on academic grounds. This concession will apply to students who are South African citizens, South African Permanent Residents, from SADC countries and from other countries in Africa. It will not apply to students registered for courses at the Graduate School of Business (GSB), or who are international students from continents other than Africa.
- The university executive will review current financial aid and fees policies, to develop proposals for reform that will align with Vision 2030 with the objective of ensuring that the allocation of financial assistance is aligned with demonstrable financial need. Proposals will be brought to Council for consideration in time for implementation for the 2023 academic year.
- The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) will be invited to take part in a joint working group with university management, to ensure that students who will benefit from the additional fee block concessions for 2022 can complete their registrations as rapidly as possible so that their academic progress is not compromised.