Walter Sisulu University addresses student grievances following registration interruptions

JANUARY 29, 2015

In light of disruptions to registration that occurred at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU), the institution convened a sitting with its Student Representative Council (SRC) in an effort resolve the issues brought forward by student leadership.

Resolutions taken by WSU management with regards to the grievances by student leadership are presented in the attached document.

“The SRC had submitted a memo to the Institutional Management Committee relating to the five issues concerning 2015 student registration. A meeting to address these issues was held on 27 January 2015,” said Angela Church, WSU spokesperson.

“The resolutions of the said meeting have been provided hereunder and all University Offices dealing with student registration are to apply and adhere to these with immediate effect:

1. Student Debt
Students highlighted their inability to pay their 2014 debt as is required by the University to enable them to register for the new academic year. Management’s response to this point is as follows:
In dealing with this matter, it was decided to categorize the student debt as follows:

Bursary Holders: It was resolved that all bursary holders whose debt had not been cleared should present letters of commitments for payment from their sponsors.

NSFAS who were funded by NSFAS in 2014 but not in 2015: Those students who signed agreements forms in 2014 but have debt will be allowed to register. With regard to students who were not funded by NSFAS in 2014 but were funded by NSFAS in 2015, it was decided that this matter will be investigated further by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Students who owe the University will be required to make payments as described in the payment matrix set out below:

Debt Categories Resolution taken

R4 000 and below = Clear debts, no MIP required
R4 001 – R7 000 = Pay 50% of the outstanding debt, Pay the MIP amount 

R7 001 – R11 000 = Pay 30% of the outstanding debt; Pay the MIP amount 

R11 001 and above = Pay 20% of the debt; Pay the MIP amount

It must be noted that all outstanding debt must be paid by the end of April 2015, in accordance with the WSU rules for student debts.

Students will not be allowed to write semester and end-of-the-year examinations if their debts are not paid up.

Students will be required to sign acknowledgement of debts. Monitoring and follow-ups will be done by the Finance department to ensure that debts are settled and paid up. Special cases will be considered when the need arises.

2. Enrolment quotas and admissions
Students are concerned about the departments reducing 1st year students intake quotas and their understanding was that quotas should increase by 5% across the board.

The enrolment quotas setting process is a regulated process. Any deviation from set targets invokes penalties from DHET amounting to millions of rands. These penalties amounted to about R17 Million in 2014 as the institution fell short by 2 800 students. 

The WSU enrolment Plan agreed upon with DHET allows for a 1% growth in designated categories per annum. The Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor is mandated to ensure that all first time entry quotas are met. To this effect, the departments are reporting weekly on their intake to ensure that we adhere to the set quotas.

At institutional level an Enrolment Plan is developed which gives rise to a quota per programme. Quota adjustments will be entertained and effected in terms of a campus-based process, and approved institutionally by the Office of the DVC.

3. Minimum Initial Payment (MIP) and 2015 fees
Students are requesting that the MIP should be reduced to R2 000 for cash paying students. The students also highlighted that different MIP amounts are charged at different campuses. Students are also not accepting the 8% fee increase.

The MIP is R3 900 for non-resident students and R5 540 for resident students, as set by Council at its meeting held in December 2014. This MIP amount is uniform across all campuses. Any anomalies have since been rectified.

Cash paying students who are unable to pay the set MIP will be handled through the Special Cases Committees.
The fee increase of 8% is not a Management prerogative but a Council decision. Management will therefore consult Council on the matter.

4. G7 Appeals

Students requested an extension of a week. This was granted as set out below: All students affected by G7 will be given an opportunity to submit their letters of appeal from the 2nd to the 6th of February 2015.

5. Additional accommodation
Students raised concerns on inadequate accommodation in all 4 campuses, with an emphasis on Butterworth (Ibika) and Queenstown. Management will fast-track the building process of the student residences at the Buffalo City campus. Additional private accommodation for all campuses will be looked into, with Ibika and Queenstown receiving priority.

6. National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
Students expressed concerns about the shortfall we received from NSFAS and how students have accumulated debts and, as a result, are unable to register. They also expressed concerns about the limited funding made available for 1st years.

All first year students who were not afforded an opportunity to submit applications will be allowed to do so until the 4th of February 2015. It must be noted that the NSFAS funds at WSU have been exhausted, the extension is to afford the 1st year students an opportunity of getting the outcome of the NSFAS means test because this will enable them to source funds elsewhere to enable them to register.

B-Tech students are not funded by NSFAS (except for identified programmes). B-Tech students who have University debts are required to pay in terms of the payment matrix specified in point 1 above.

"Management wishes to commend the SRC for a very fruitful and open engagement that was held yesterday on these very sensitive and crucial issues. Management further hopes that students will understand and appreciate the precarious financial situation of the institution," Church concluded.