STELLENBOSCH University (SU) has been slammed for a “lack of transformation” after it emerged that, over the past five years, it had only accepted as few as 1 800 poor students.
Poor students were regarded as those financed by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and who were SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries.
A written reply by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande broke down the figures in response to questions from the DA’s Alexandra Abrahams.
Nzimande’s response disclosed that of the 26 institutions in the country, Stellenbosch was among the four that had less than 1 800 students funded by NSFAS and were Sassa beneficiaries, the lowest figure among tertiary institutions in the Western Cape.
The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) had the highest intake of NSFAS-funded students who were Sassa beneficiaries at 11 763 from 2018 until 2022. The total number of students funded through the NSFAS (irrespective of any category) at CPUT stood at 60 000 while SU figure was close to 14 000 students over the period from 2018 until 2021.
The provincial secretary of the Congress of South African Students, Mphumzi Giwu called for transformation at the institution.
“We are not shocked. We know it is difficult for students to get accepted into this institution because their first priority is (to) learners that have bursaries and (are) privately funded who are millionaires and billionaires who are also funders of the same institution and certain schools. The university does not want diversity.
“We are calling on the department of higher education to put a minimum percentage of a number of NSFAS first-time students at this university to include the poor students,” said Giwu.
Sinethemba Msizawe, provincial chairperson of the EFF Student Command, said the figures painted a bleak picture : “It is no secret that the university remains the headquarters of exclusion of poor students who cannot afford.
He said students who came from the under-resourced schools were excluded based on their syllabus.
“We must also understand that as a result of structural exclusion, SU admits students from the cream of the top-notch high schools who are taught in their own syllabus and different curriculum from the public schools,” he said.
William Sezoe, of the DA Students Organisation, said while different universities had unique admission policies, strides must be made in assistance.
“SU is an academic institution, and it thus, according to its admission policy, firstly looks at merit before the financial situation of applicants.”
Sezoe said the organisation saw the revelation of the low number as an opportunity for the university to make use of its resources to transform its programmes.
The university’s spokesperson Martin Viljoen said they were in close contact with student leaders and the department about issues pertaining to student admission.
body.copy...: “SU also remains committed to working with the higher education towards finding systemic and sustainable solutions to ensure financial sustainability for universities and access to higher education for our students,” he said.