NMMU reiterates stance on 2017 fee increases, expects to open today

SEPTEMBER 23, 2016

Update: The NMMU did not open today as planned as protesting students blocked off the entrance to South Campus. 

While at the time of publishing it remained unclear if indeed the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) would open for academic business on Friday due to the ongoing #FeesMustFall protests, the institution on Thursday issued a statement saying that it supports the call to widen access to higher education for academically deserving poor and 'missing middle' students.

"No such students should be denied the opportunity of pursuing tertiary studies as a result of socio-economic circumstances," said Dr Sibongile Muthwa, Acting NMMU Vice-Chancellor. 

"The University appreciates Monday’s statement by Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande identifying interim measures to address the plight of poor and needy students.

The statement committed to:

  • fully cover fees for students that qualify under the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS);
  • subsidise the “missing middle” for the fee increase up to a maximum of 8%."

See the media statement of the Minister for ease of reference.

Dr Muthwa said that the NMMU is concerned that different interpretations of the fee measures announced have triggered various incidents of violence throughout the country.

"This further highlights the urgency of finding lasting solutions to the funding challenges in the higher education sector.

"The University condemns violence and the destruction of infrastructure in the sector. We remain actively committed to continued engagement with all stakeholders to address concerns raised by students and to restore operations at the University," she said.

"We recognise that the interventions announced by the Minister apply to the 2017 academic year, while awaiting the outcome of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the feasibility of free higher education for 2018 and beyond.

"NMMU acknowledges and supports government’s decision to include the 'missing middle' up to a ceiling of R600 000 earnings of a family per annum to provide some financial support.  It is our understanding that students from the so-called 'missing middle' – those families who do not qualify for NSFAS funding but are unable to afford tertiary tuition – will be expected to pay fees at the 2015rate in 2017, but that the government will pay any possible fee increase of up to 8%.

"As a result of this, poor and 'missing middle' students will not be impacted negatively by universities increasing fees for 2017 up to 8%. Furthermore, this will contribute to ensuring that universities can continue to offer quality education."

Dr Muthwa said that the University has a positive track record of addressing challenges around student funding.

"We urge our students to work with us to restore stability of university operations. Failure to do so, will negatively affect both the quality and outcomes of the academic project.

"In November last year, using its discretion and within the limits of affordability, the NMMU Council took a bold and morally ethical decision to offer 2015 debt and 2016 down payment relief to academically deserving students who formed part of the 'missing middle', " she said.

"In light of the prevailing economic climate, along with the funding needed to fulfill NMMU’s promise of reintegrating outsourced services, the university will be facing significant challenges to its medium and long-term sustainability. Finding sustainable solutions to higher education funding will require the collective effort of all stakeholders and sectors of society."

Dr Muthwa announced that the University operations will resume on Friday.