Academic activities at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) were indefinitely suspended last week as violent protests erupted at the institution's Bellville campus. Several reasons were provided regarding what caused the protest, however, the main issue related to an existential challenge.
CPUT says protests erupted following an announcement that would result in students being defunded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). In 2023, NSFAS announced that students studying for less than 60-course credits are longer eligible for certain allowances.
NSFAS provides comprehensive bursaries to undergraduate students enrolled in approved courses at public universities or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
The financial aid scheme pays a student's tuition and registration fees. It also provides funded students with allowances that cover the costs related to a student’s studies. Students receive an accommodation allowance or transport allowance, living allowances and a learning material allowance.
However, the new criteria means that students who are studying for less than 60-course credits are no longer eligible for accommodation, living and transport allowance. This means that students will have to cover these costs after being approved by NSFAS for the allowances.
Section 5.3.2 of the 2023 NSFAS Eligibility Criteria And Conditions For Financial Aid states, “Distance University students, and as of the 2023 academic year, students who are studying less than 60-course credits towards their qualification, qualify for the learning materials allowances only.”
Course credits refer to the level of study. Each level of study equals 120 credits per academic year such that a typical 3-year qualification will be 360 credits and a 4-year qualification will be 480 credits.
NSFAS initially verified these students for study at the commencement of the 2023 academic year, and The new condition leaves some students unfunded in critical areas. We understand the frustration of students with regard to this, and we, along with student leadership, continue to engage with NSFAS on the way forward
CPUT Spokesperson Lauren Kansley says the announcement of the 60-credit rule came as a surprise to the university. This as CPUT students were approved for funding and were subsequently allowed into the institution.
We were as surprised as they [Students] were when we had a meeting with NSFAS
Following the protest, CPUT decided to suspend the academic year indefinitely. Student residences were promptly evacuated, as learners were sent home. CPUT procured more than 50 buses to transport students home. The university says all precautionary measures were taken to ensure the safety of students.
Continued violent disruptions, torching of buildings and wanton attacks on institutional infrastructure, have forced university management to close all campuses indefinitely.
The university made provision for shuttles taking students from residences to other provinces including the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Free State and North West provinces.
Kansley says CPUT is currently observing a study week which means the academic programme is not being interrupted.
They are confident that lecturers and academics will get creative with regards to assessments scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. University activities will now take place online.