Minister Nzimande Statement On The Outcome Of The Meeting With The South African Union Students (SAUS)

The Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande met with the South African Union of Students (SAUS) on Friday, 31st January 2020 to further discuss matters raised by SAUS that were responded to by the Minister on 26 January 2020.

The Minister wishes to welcome the calling off of the national shutdown with immediate effect in the wake of the common understanding and agreements reached with the student leadership.

The Minister further urge all our institutions to ensure that all matters agreed to are implemented without any further delays.

Of importance as well is the need for all role players to work together to identify problems and seek to resolve them timeously.

The following agreements were reiterated:

All NSFAS students with debt can register, providing they sign the Acknowledgement of Debt form and they meet the academic requirements for continued funding.

All NSFAS-qualifying students are able to register for the academic year without making upfront payments.

There is a mechanism in place, agreed between NSFAS and institutions, to assess financial eligibility of students who obtain a place and register for an approved programme, but have not applied to NSFAS, to be allowed to register, while the NSFAS assessment is underway.

The Minister and the Department and USAF have also reiterated the agreement that all students, whether they owe the university or not, must be given their academic records, either for the purpose of pursuing employment opportunities or further study.

The matter of private accommodation accreditation, for which there has already been a sector agreement made and outlined in the letter of the Director-General dated 20 January 2020.

It has been agreed that the relevant section of the 2020 Guidelines will be adapted and approved, to reflect the agreements made.

The issue of a differential incidental allowance for male and female students will be explored during 2020 for the 2021 academic year.

The following matters are agreed as critical for further discussion in the system, and will be dealt within the shortest period of time through existing processes set up to address these matters.

These include:

The matter of post-graduate funding, and in particular students who are NSFAS recipients wishing to continue to postgraduate studies.

The matter of student debt in the system for non-NSFAS-qualifying students.

The matter of the dearth of funding for “missing middle” students, those who do not qualify for NSFAS, but struggle to afford higher education fees.

The student funding policy that provides N+1 and N+2 years of funding to students.

The specific matters relating to UNISA students and the funding policy relating to that.

Other agreements were made as follows:

Specific instances where it is alleged that universities are under-enrolling in specific programmes will be brought to the attention of the Department so that the reasons for this can be determined.

Over the next week (07/02/2020), USAf and the Department in consultation with the NRF will determine the numbers of NSFAS students who have applied for postgraduate studies and currently registered, to understand the extent of demand in this area, to inform further discussion with universities, the NRF, and other funders about the possibilities for improving postgraduate funding, with a particular focus on previously NSFAS-funded students. This process will explore additional funding for post graduate students within the registration process academic year 2020.

USAf indicated that all universities have processes in place to assist missing middle students with debt so that they can register.

USAf agreed to consult further with universities about their registration and debt management policies, to assess whether more flexible approaches may be possible within the registration process academic year 2020.

There are processes in place relating to mental health issues facing university students and there is work being done by USAf, in partnership with the MRC and Higher Health and the Department are working together on these matters. The Minister will convene a conference on these matters before the end of April 2020.

The ongoing issues relating to campus safety and security were briefly discussed and there is commitment between USAf and the Minister to continue working on these critical issues.

The Ministry will continue to engage student leadership in finding solutions and urged students to fully cooperate and allow the registration and orientation processes of universities to continue peacefully, so that the 2020 academic year can start without any further delays.

Issued by:
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology

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