NMMU welcomes Nzimande's recommendations on 2017 fees as students meet

SEPTEMBER 19, 2016

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) on Monday said that it welcomes Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement, which essentially gives universities direction in dealing with the university fee issue going forward.

The University has been in support of calls for free education for poor and academically deserving students, as was outlined in its submission to the presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training (the Fees Commission) earlier this month.

In its submission to the Fees Commission, NMMU made recommendations that included calls for financial support for the “missing middle” and for student fees to remain a crucial source of income for universities.

NMMU acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa welcomed the minister’s announcement and the provision made for the “missing middle” – students whose family earnings are above the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) criteria but cannot afford tuition fees.

We welcome the announcement as it moves us forward in that it gives more clarity as to what the University can and should do to take forward plans for 2017 and 18,” she said.

“We welcome the new inclusion of the missing middle in the revised determination announced by the Minister. As it is now known, NMMU supports free education for the poor.”

The national #FeesMustFall movement last year highlighted various weighty issues, forcing universities and government to relook at higher education funding.

NMMU notes the government’s recognition of the financial strain that universities are under as a result of last year’s moratorium on fee adjustments. It is further encouraged by government’s stance towards improving access to post-school education and that this “immediate and pressing” task should not eat away at the financial stability of the sector.

The University also notes the government’s commitment to mobilise public and private sector financial support to assist the “missing middle” through affordable financial aid options and the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to develop a funding support model for poor and “missing middle” students that will be tested in 2017.

NMMU has been proactive in dealing with issues raised by the movement, offering debt and down payment relief in 2016.

The University continues to engage with all stakeholders in seeking ways of increasing students’ access to education in an economically viable manner.

Meanwhile, the NMMU Student Representative Council (SRC) has called for a student meeting to deliberate on how to respond to Nzimande's recommendations.

"The SRC invites all to a mass meeting, following the announcement by Min Blade Ndzimande that there would be 0% fee increment for the poor and 0-8 percent increment for the privileged," it said.

"As an SRC we believe that the statement does not solve our existing funding problems as students, after consulting with you the students on the 23rd August it was clear that students call for nothing else but a 0% fee increment and thus... call on students to unite in this mass meeting as we craft a way forward moving into our engagements with university management on our call for 0% fee increment."

There have already been protests at Wits and UCT, with other universities expected to follow suit soon.