Ricochet News

VIDEO: NMMU Vice Chancellor welcomes thousands of new students

By Jesica Slabbert - Jan 23, 2017
VIDEO: NMMU Vice Chancellor welcomes thousands of new students

It was a day of excitement and nervousness for thousands of parents and students, who attended the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) 2017 first year student orientation ceremony over the weekend.

The event took place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday to welcome nearly 7 000 students, who joined the university for the first time.

While delivering his address, which was also live-streamed to various packed venues across all NMMU campuses, including in George, NMMU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Derrick Swartz, expressed his excitement at having the new students joining the institution.

He appealed to them to rise to the various challenges that they will encounter in their new academic journey.

“Being a first year is probably the most exciting part about being at a university as a new world is being opened up to them,” he said.

“We wanted to convey to [students] the rich opportunity to gain a unique qualification that will hopefully equip them with the knowledge and skills to enter into a very uncertain world.”

Swartz also touched on the various challenges affecting the higher education sector; mainly the funding crisis that saw protests that almost brought South African institutions to their knees during the #FeesMustFall protests of 2015 and 2016.

Contextualising the funding crunch faced by higher education, Swartz said that the number of students entering the system was on a steep incline, while government subsidies were on the decline.

“We, as universities, cannot give free higher education; neither can we scrap the debt or fees for that matter. It is simply not possible and I cannot concede to that. It is a policy issue.

Unless and until government effects otherwise, that is the way the system legally works. It legally enforces me to collect the fees.

“At the same time, the government must increase its subsidies. It cannot lean on fees and communities to raise the difference that they are not paying. It is unacceptable that we have a government that does not prize and value higher education to produce the quality education that we have,” Prof Swartz said.

In laying down the law, he said that the University would not tolerate violent protests that trampled on the rights of those, who were not actively partaking in protests.

“We will take every legal step to protect and secure and to open Universities. There will be no shutdown of universities,” he said.

Swartz stated that peaceful and legal protests would be allowed should they occur in the future.

He also reminded first year students that their taking up the offer to study at the University meant they have agreed to adhere to its rules.

“Remember, when you sign up here as a student, you sign a contract to uphold the values, and therefore the rules, of the institution. If you violate those rules, you are breaking your side of the contract. Your parents and I have to hold you accountable for this,” he said.

In an interview with RNEWS on the student numbers the NMMU had received this academic year, Prof Swartz said; “I feel excited, I am worried about the number of students that will be disappointed, because 112 000 students applied for this year, and we only have 6 500 places available.

“My worry is wondering what those students will do.

“I am also concerned about the ones that are in the system, are they funded properly? And can they focus on the things that matter which is their education.”