There will be no walk-in registrations for the 2018 academic year at public universities, said Universities South Africa (USAF) following a call by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to those who passed Grade 12 previously to report at institutions of their choice and register.
The USAF said it held a meeting to discuss the December 16 announcement by President Jacob Zuma that government would introduce fully subsidised free higher education for poor students in the 2018 academic year.
“Much to our dismay, we discovered at that meeting that government’s decision to implement the new system was a fait accompli [not new, already decided on]. Our task then as universities was to work on how to implement the new NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] provisions in ways that are more effective to students,” said the USAF in a statement.
“One of the decisions out of that meeting was that since new applications had closed in 2017 at all 26 universities, no ‘walk-in’ applications would be accepted. Universities should abide by their enrollment plans and targets agreed between each university and the DHET [Department of Higher Education and Training].”
EFF leader Julius Malema declared 2018 ”the year of free education”, and urged those who could not study further due to lack of funding to go to education institutions of their choice this academic year and register.
“We must make sure that in 2018 all academically deserving students are admitted freely in South African universities and FET colleges. We call upon all those who passed matric extremely well in the past and found themselves as petrol attendants, retail or security workers because they couldn’t afford university fees, to report at the academic institution of their choice next year,” said Malema in his New Year message.
Zuma further announced there would be no tuition fee increase for students from households earning up to R600 000 a year, and that NSFAS loans already allocated to students still studying would immediately be converted to grants.
He established the Heher commission led by Judge Jonathan Arthur Heher to probe the feasibility of free higher education following ‘FeesMustFall’ protests by students at institutions across the country.
The commission found that South Africa cannot afford free higher education, and suggested various mechanisms for funding. This included implementing government-backed loans for university students and the utilisation of funds from the UIF [Unemployment Insurance Fund] surplus.
The commission recommended free education for students at technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Universities have decried the fact that Zuma has not indicated how the free higher education would be funded.