Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

‘Serious shortage’ of students at the University of Free State

University of Free State's Dean of Faculty of Education pleads with staff to encourage potential students to register.

The University of Free State’s (UFS) Faculty of Education is seemingly experiencing a critical shortage of first year students.

According to a memo issued under the name of the Dean of Faculty of Education in the Bloemfontein main campus, Professor Loyiso Jita, this is the first time this has happened.

In the undated memo making rounds on social media, the dean implores staff to encourage potential students to register.

“The faculty is experiencing a serious shortfall of students to meet our 2023 targets. This is the first time where the faculty is likely not to meet the set university targets for first years (and seniors) who are registered for 2023,” the memo reads.

Plea to faculty staff

In the memo, Jita pleads with UFS faculty staff to recruit any student they knew, whether they were denied admission or did not apply but were ready to pay and start attending classes to come in on “Wednesday and Thursday only on a first come first serve basis”.

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The memo states that students with an Admission Point Score (APS) of 30 and above could also be accommodated in the mainstream programme. The institution is looking for about 100 spaces in its QwaQwa campus and another 100 in Bloemfontein.

“Please encourage students that may not have applied or may have been denied based on Grade 11 results to walk into EXR ready tomorrow and Thursday. Let us do this together for our faculty!” Jita pleads in the memo.

UFS aware of message

UFS’s communication and marketing director, Lacea Loader, said the institution’s management is aware of the message which circulated on social media this past week.

“The university is unable to register any prospective walk-in students in the Faculty of Education or any of its other six faculties,” she said.

Loader did not elaborate on the faculty’s inability to register any prospective walk-in students, only that the university’s registration process for undergraduate students closed on 17 February 2023.

“The university management is aware that there has been some confusion this past week regarding the availability of space in the Faculty of Education for first-time-entering students in the 2023 academic year, and apologises for any inconvenience this may have caused,” she said.

Broader picture

With the developments at UFS, The Citizen reached out to several universities for information on the number of applications and admissions for first year students.

North West University (NWU) Director of Corporate Communication Louis Jacobs said the institution received close to 200 000 applications for 2023 from prospective first-year students and could only accommodate 12 726 contact and distance first year students.

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Responding on how online applications and registrations have assisted in curbing the chaos associated with registration of first year students, Jacobs said this was not the first time that registrations were mainly online.

“Assistance was, however, provided to students who experienced difficulties. Together with this, no walk-in students were allowed, thus also eliminating the issue of large numbers of people on the campuses,” he said.

North West University extends registration

Jacobs said registration has been extended until next week as some students were still experiencing problems, mainly as a result of funding and were, therefore, provisionally registered.

“Our academic programme commenced on 20 February, and those students who are only provisionally registered are having access to it via our online learning platform, eFundi. Based on the reason supplied, no indication of final numbers in any of the programmes can be supplied at this stage,” he added.

Other institutions are yet to respond (the article will be updated once these institutions have responded).

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Cape Peninsula University of Technology received a total of 399 389 applications for first time entry students against 8 621available space.

The institution’s Director: Marketing and Communication Dr Garth Van Gensen said courses with openings were recently opened for applications during the late applications window.

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University (SU) Spokesperson Martin Viljoen said there has been no courses with a marked decline in first year registrations for 2023, saying instead they have a seen a huge increase in registration for courses such as Education.

He said they received a total of about 73 000 first year applications for undergraduate programmes and made approximately 12 000 conditional offers.

Viljoen said of the 73 000 first years, the university received approximately 64 500 first-time entry applications for undergraduate programmes.

SU fully-enrolled

“SU can enrol approximately 5 615 first year undergraduate students. Final registration numbers are not yet available. Most programmes at the university are fully enrolled,” he said.

Viljoen said there were no courses that the institution was unable to fully enrol by the closing date.

He said online registration has been in place for a number of years at SU, saying adding that the institution was currently implementing a new student administration system which caused some frustration.

Viljoen, however, said they managed to register students within the required timeframes.  

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  • This article has been updated to include the responses from Stellenbosch University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and will be updated as further responses are received.