Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education – 14 January 2019
As part of a concession to protesting students, UNISA announced this week that it will accept 25 000 additional students this year. This is the equivalent of the total First Year admissions to Wits, UCT, UJ and Stellenbosch combined.
While the Democratic Alliance (DA) fully supports students’ rights to access higher education, we question how exactly UNISA will fund and be capacitated for the additional students and whether the Department of Higher Education and Training will provide UNISA with proper support.
The DA calls on Minister of Higher Education, Naledi Pandor, to explain how UNISA has been permitted to take in the additional students in spite of strict agreements between her Department and Universities as to the number of students they may admit, and to reassure the public that both NSFAS and the University will be provided with additional funding to cover these costs.
While the NSFAS money might be found, as it has in the past, there is every probability that the University and the Ministry intends for this massive increase to take place without major additional resources.
This increase is extremely large, and will need to be funded on multiple levels:
- Thousands of additional bursaries provided by NSFAS will be required to cover those whose incomes are below R300,000.
- Significant additional academic, administrative and IT staff will be required to cope with the numbers; and
- 25 000 additional course packs and multiple other resources, including study centers and library facilities, will need to be provided by the University.
Furthermore, this increase will have a knock-on effect in future years and pressure will be on the University to continue with these larger numbers in future.
UNISA is already a University in trouble. There is a finite number of academics, and inside sources say that the number dwindles every month as staff who leave are hardly ever replaced. Staff morale is low and there are many tensions on the campus.
These kinds of massive increases in student numbers require proper planning and administration and should not be undertaken lightly. The DA will continue to monitor the developments at UNISA and awaits further clarity from the Minister.