The University of Cape Town (UCT) has announced that students with historical debt will be allowed to register for the 2021 academic year following protests this week.
In a statement released on Sunday, 14 March, UCT council chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama confirmed that the student registration fee block – in respect of 2020 debt – will be lifted for South African students and students from the rest of Africa with immediate effect.
This comes after the University of the Western Cape (UWC) also cleared all its students with historical debt to register for this year.
The UCT council held a virtual meeting on Saturday, in which the university resolved to support students in the process of servicing their debt.
“This applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, excluding students from the UCT Graduate School of Business. The lifting of the fee block does not extinguish the existing debt,” Ngonyama said.
The university will also make R30 million available to support criterion-based debt appeals for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Meanwhile, Ngonyama, noted that the university believed that there was a need for national consultation on the impact of the pandemic and budget constraints on the higher education sector
“The funding crisis is a national crisis. No university can solve it on its own – the higher education sector urgently needs intervention from the South African government.
“We must put the students who are in desperate need of financial aid at the forefront of our thinking and planning, in order to support the future and sustainability of higher education in South Africa.”
Ngonyama also welcomed the government’s move to reprioritise the Department of Higher Education’s annual budget to cover the shortfall experienced by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“The UCT executive will engage stakeholders across the higher education sector to take up a sectorial approach to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to work towards a long-term solution to the funding crisis in the sector.”
Government will now spend R42.1 billion this year after NSFAS funding 700,000 students in 2020.
Earlier this week, the UCT’s student representative council (SRC) had vowed to bring classes to a halt if their demands were not met by the university’s management.
According to the SRC, the university has about 1,655 students with historic debt, amounting to R88 million.