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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘Students can claim damages’: Educor’s deregistration has left thousands stranded

Students who've been affected by the deregistration of Educor colleges have legal remedies they can explore.

Students who’ve been negatively impacted by Educor’s deregistration can claim their hard-earned money back, according to a consumer law expert.

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande announced the deregistration of four Educor institutions on Tuesday.

City Varsity, Damelin, Icesa City Campus and Lyceum College were stripped of accreditation for their failure to submit annual financial statements and tax clearance certificates for 2021 and 2022.

READ MORE: Four ‘dysfunctional’ Educor colleges have been deregistered, says Nzimande

While the institutions will be granted a phase-out period to allow students in the ‘pipeline’ to complete their studies, the move has left thousands stressed out over their academic future.

As uncertainty prevails, Nzimande said Educor would have to reimburse students where its due.

‘Educor students can claim damages’

Speaking to The Citizen, consumer law expert Trudie Broekmann said there was a contractual relationship between the respective institutions, their students and parents.

However, due to the deregistration, the colleges will no longer be able to provide educational services to their students.

“This in legal terms, amounts to breach of contract by the institution, and the student and his/her parents can claim damages, and are under no obligation to pay for services which won’t be provided,” Broekmann said.

Echoing Nzimande, Broekmann said that students who’ve already paid their fees for the year are entitled to claiming back a portion of their fees for the period when services will no longer be provided.

Meanwhile, the Higher Education Department noted that students looking to complete their studies at other institutions might experience challenges with the transfer of credits.

Furthermore, they may be forced to repeat some modules, therefore incurring more costs.

Broekmann said students can claim these costs from the deregistered institution.

“If a student’s training to date is not fully credited to their studies and they need to repeat a portion of the course, the deregistered institution will have to bear the cost of the studies and living expenses for that portion of the student’s studies at another educational institution,” she explained.

ALSO READ: Nzimande challenged over alleged discrimination against black local academics at SA universities

What does the process entail?

Students who’ve been affected by the deregistration have some legal remedies they could explore.

“The first step will be for each student to find out what loss or additional expense they are suffering as a result of the de-registration,” Broekmann said.

She said students will have to provide written evidence to support their claim, such as written proof that another institution is unwilling to credit them fully for courses previously completed.

Students will also have to indicate how much it will cost to repeat the modules at another institution.

“That must be submitted to the deregistered institution with a written letter of demand and a deadline of 14 days from the date of delivery of the letter for payment, and bank details provided for payment,” Broekmann explained.

ALSO READ: Nzimande dismisses ‘false and ill-informed’ reports he hiked university fees


If the institution does not respond by the stipulated date, don’t despair.  

“If their claim is R20 000 or less, it will be best to approach the Small Claims Court closest to the de-registered institution’s premises, and claim the refund or compensation through that channel.

“One can do that yourself without appointing an attorney.

“Take the copy of the letter with proof of delivery with you and the clerk of the Small Claims Court will help you to send a summons and walk you through the rest of the process,” Broekmann explained.

She further indicated that students who reside in a province with a Consumer Court could lodge a claim there, provided their respective tertiary institution has premises in the same province.

‘Too big for Small Claims Court’

Students whose claim exceeds the R20 000 threshold will have to escalate this a little further.

“If your claim is too big for the Small Claims Court and you don’t have a consumer court that can assist you, submit your claim either to the National Consumer Commission or the Magistrate’s Court,” Broekmann said.

“For the Magistrate’s Court, you will need to appoint a lawyer. For the NCC, submit your claim online on their e-services portal,” she added.

The expert also advised conducting regular follow-ups and to ask for a notice of non-referral if the process takes too long. She also encouraged appointing a lawyer specialising in consumer law to submit a claim to the National Consumer Tribunal.

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Are students absolved from paying their debt?

So, what happens if the roles are reversed? Students owing money to the deregistered institutions are not automatically absolved of debt.

“Students remain liable to the institutions for any amounts owed to them, for goods and services which have already been rendered by the institution,” Rhodes Law Clinic attorney Shaun Bergover told The Citizen.

However, he said the institutions’ non-compliance with regulations and policies of the Higher Education Department threw a spanner in the works.

Meanwhile, Broekmann advised students with outstanding accounts to use their prospective claim for compensation to settle their debt.

“As a practical measure, you can deduct your claim for compensation for your loss or additional expenses from the debt you owe to the educational institution.

“Submit a detailed letter of demand and written proof of the expenses or losses to the educational institution and demand that they adjust your account to deduct the claim amount from your debt.”

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