Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on Wednesday defended government’s proposal for students to pass 75% of their modules in order to continue to receive funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) in 2023.
Nsfas and the Department of Higher Education and Training have come under criticism from student organisations and opposition parties over the proposed funding guidelines that were presented by the scheme last month during a meeting with student representative councils (SRCs) across the country.
The guidelines include, among others, no increment on allowances and the standardisation of private accommodation allowances for Nsfas beneficiaries.
Appearing before Parliament’s oversight committee on higher education, Nzimande said the proposal for students to pass 75% of their modules in order to continue to receive funding from Nsfas was a progressive policy.
He said while there were ongoing consultations over the policy, it would ensure that Nsfas beneficiaries complete their qualifications in record time.
“The proposal that is being consulted upon is that 60% [and] up to 75% of your modules, you must pass them if you’re going to be funded. It made sense to actually engage around that because we can’t be funding students and expecting them only to be passing half of their programme,” Nzimande said.
“What it means is that basically, we are then institutionalising that if you’re doing a three-year degree, you must do it in six years, which is not the aim of government nor the aim or goals of most of our students who actually want to finish their studies in record time, and that is what we are discussing.”
The minister emphasised that the proposal had not been adopted by goverment, saying an official
announcement of the approved Nsfas guidelines would be made once consultations are done.
“To say that, as some media reported this had already been agreed to, is really just very unproductive and dangerous sensationalism,” he said.
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has already rejected the proposed Nsfas funding guidelines, saying they would exclude students from poor and working-class backgrounds.
“We must categorically state that the proposed guidelines as they were presented by Nsfas were rejected by the union,” said SAUS’ national spokesperson Asive Dlanjwa.