Walter Sisulu University says poor students to be absolved from fee increment

OCTOBER 20, 2016

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rob Midgley, has assured the institution that the great majority of the students will be absolved from any 2017 fee increment should the institution’s Council resolve to implement such.

Addressing a packed audience at the Zamakulungisa Site in Mthatha during the institution’s October graduation, Midgley said the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)’s commitment to maintain 2017 fees at the 2015 level and to fund any proposed increase in fees had assisted the University tremendously.

“For this reason, management is able to propose to Council a fee dispensation that will provide additional income to the University but at the same time ensures that approximately 95% of our students and their families will not feel the effect of the increase. Only those whose family income is above R600 000 per annum will face increased costs,” he said.

Midgely further commended government’s sustained efforts in improving access to education through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which supports approximately 75% of the University’s student populous.

He said the rural context within which the University operates meant that education remains the key catalyst to change the socio-economic position of the poor and reducing inequality.

“Education remains a key pathway out of unemployment, because jobs are linked to education levels. This is why we are proud to serve the youth of the Eastern Cape.  We are proud that we can give hope to our youth,” Midgley asserted.

Addressing the contentious Fees Must Fall campaign, Midgley said the movement was a noble one and had gained a lot of traction as a result of the high youth unemployment rate.

He cited, in light of the calls for free education, the “The Economics of Fees Must Fall” KPMG report which highlighted the above-inflation fee increases between 2009 and 2015 due to a weakening exchange rate that severely impacted on students and their families. 

“The weaker Rand has made it expensive to buy library books, software and other equipment. The report estimates that the students contributed R21 billion to university budgets in 2015.  If fees do indeed fall, who will provide this R21 billion because this money is necessary for optimal operations?” he queried.

The University capped 807 students – six doctoral degrees, 20 Masters Degrees, and 26 Honours degrees. 57% of these were females, whilst 43% were female.