Unisa Defends Academic Year Changes

Unisa has stepped up and provided clarity after many students bashed the University management for the changes made to the academic calendar. Unisa also received backlash for their decision to accept fewer first-time entering students in 2021 and has now responded to this as well.

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Unisa has recently come under fire for changes being made to the academic year. Some students even went as far as starting a petition which was signed by thousands. They have now responded to all the concerns and claims put forward.

Previously, Unisa announced that they will only have one examination period and one registration period for 2021.

These decisions they say are not only due to Matrics receiving their results late this month but to also cater for NSFAS students whose funding will only be released in April 2021.

There are also around 250 000 students who are currently writing examinations and supplementary examinations which will also need time to be marked.

They then defend their decisions by stating:

Importantly, this is not a Unisa-specific challenge, nor a decision occasioned by Unisa management, but rather a sectoral matter arising out of the need to properly manage the teaching and learning space in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant national interventions in this regard. Similar challenges have resulted in changes to academic calendars internationally as well. 

Students must register for their first and second semester modules by 12 March 2021. The decision to have one registration period for the year is just, simply put, to buy some time. This will mean that time won't be needed to register in July and will allow for extension of the two semesters to provide extended teaching time, the University explained.

If students who were finishing their qualification in the first semester were concerned, Unisa has said that they will identify these students and accommodate them so that they can finish in the first semester and that they won't be affected by the changes.

Student fees will not be affected as Unisa explains, "will be required to pay their fees as they normally do for each semester, despite registering for both semesters simultaneously".

The examination period is set to run between September and December.

Official data indicates that for the past 10 years, the average number of modules taken by a student is between four and six. Also, many undergraduate assessments are continuous and not summative examinations, hence no student will have to write 12 exams in the same examination period as has been claimed.  

Unisa also received backlash, along with the department, for limiting the number of first-time entering students. This comes after the Minister of Higher Education instructed them to do so. 

They have said that the department's approved enrolment target for 2021 is 376 000. The University makes it clear, "However, the number of students transferring from other institutions and the cohorts of returning students are unaffected by the enrollment targets". 

Unisa has been having engagements with the National Student Representative Council, the Department of Higher Education and governance, consultative and decision-making structures within and outside the university on the concerns which were raised since Unisa's last update on the academic year.

Read Unisa's full response here.

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