Announcements

NSFAS funding and student demands

Despite a somewhat tumultuous start to 2018, with the labour disruptions and the re-opening of applications for first-time entering students, Unisa remains open to engaging with students and to finding solutions to the challenges confronting them.

Recently, students have raised concerns about NSFAS funding and its impact on registrations. This was particularly in relation to first-time entering students who had applied for NSFAS funding, returning students who had been funded in 2017 and, finally, students with outstanding fees owing to the university. The first section of this communiqué explains how Unisa will assist NSFAS applicants, and the second section addresses the demands raised by students as they pertain to applications and registrations.

As a university, to ensure that we are able to assist our students, we have had to make some difficult decisions - some of which have put the university at a financial disadvantage.

We therefore urge you to use this opportunity to further your studies wisely and we trust that your 2018 academic year will be a successful one.


1. NSFAS funding and your Unisa registration

First-time entering students who applied for the 2018 extended NSFAS grant for Unisa students

Due to some delays in the verification of extended NSFAS grant applications, Unisa has agreed to fully register approximately 17 000 first-time entering students who

  • applied for admission and were offered a place for the 2018 academic year;
  • submitted a registration for the 2018 academic year by the extended registration closing date of 20 February 2018; and
  • applied for the extended NSFAS grant for Unisa students by 20 February 2018.

Included in the 17 000 first-time entering students mentioned above, there is a list of students who must still be considered by the service provider. It is, therefore, possible that some students who are yet to be registered are on this list. Unisa will finalise these registrations by 23 February 2018. Affected students will be required to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt Form, which Unisa's Directorate of Student Funding will send to you via e-mail. 

It must be kept in mind that due to capacity constraints and enrolment management, places could not be offered to all students who applied, even though they might meet the entrance requirements. An estimated 37 000 additional students were offered spaces, but there were more than 90 000 new applications.


Re-registering Unisa students waiting for NSFAS funding

We are aware that approximately 13 000 returning Unisa students who received NSFAS funding in 2017 have been unable to complete their registrations for the 2018 academic year, as they are still waiting for 2018 NSFAS funding. Unisa has agreed to allow qualifying students in this group to fully register for the 2018 academic year before the NSFAS funding process has been completed, provided that the student

  • passed 50% of the registered modules in the previous academic year (NSFAS progression rule); and
  • submitted a registration (with an indication of the modules to be registered) by the registration closing date of 2 February 2018.

The processing of these registrations has been expedited and you should already have received confirmation of your registration.


Student debt

The South African Government has indicated that they will make a decision regarding the historic debt of students, but no decision has yet been announced.

If you have applied for 2018 NSFAS funding and you have outstanding student fees from a previous academic year (ie student debt), Unisa will require you to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt Form (in which you commit to a re-payment plan to Unisa).  

2. Student demands

Unisa students have presented a number of demands to the university, which are listed below, together with Unisa's response to the demands.


Unisa must open at least 20 000 spaces for first-time entering students for the 2018 academic year.

Since re-opening applications for first-time entering students in 2018, Unisa received more than 90 000 applications. A total number of 37 000 new applicants were offered spaces for the 2018 academic year.


Matriculants who have applied for admission, but don't meet the minimum admission requirements, should be exempted from this rule.

Unisa is a publicly funded entity and, consequently, has to enforce minimum statutory admission requirements (in terms of the law) for all prospective students. Unisa also offers alternative pathways in some qualifications for those students who meet the minimum admission requirements, but do not qualify to be admitted into certain qualifications.


Unisa should scrap the application fee for first-time entering students who cannot afford the application fee.

Unisa has identified students who were unable to pay the required fee at the time of application. The application fee has been included in the affected students' study fee accounts. This means that students can register now and pay the application fee later. Special consideration will also be given to qualifying NSFAS students.


Unisa must have a fixed registration amount.

The minimum initial amount payable at the time of registration is equal to 33% of the total amount due for the modules for which the student intends to register. This percentage was reduced from 50% in 2017 to assist students to register. To further assist students, Unisa announced a zero percent increase for both the 2017 and 2018 academic years.


Unisa must scrap all outstanding fees (historic debt). No student should be excluded on the grounds of financial shortcomings.

The South African Government has indicated that they will make a decision regarding the historic debt of students, but no decision has yet been announced. Unisa is, unfortunately, not in the position to scrap all outstanding (historic) debt. Unisa will, therefore, adhere to its policy regarding debt collection, but will make the following concessions:

  • Unisa will fully register all first-time entering Unisa students who were offered a space for the 2018 academic year, who submitted a registration for the 2018 academic year and who applied for the extended NSFAS funding for Unisa students by the registration deadline.
  • Unisa will fully register all returning Unisa students who received NSFAS funding in 2017 and who qualify for 2018 NSFAS funding.
  • Returning Unisa students with historic debt, who qualify for NSFAS funding, will be permitted to register for the 2018 academic year without first settling the outstanding debt. Unisa will require such students to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt Form (in which they commit to a re-payment plan to Unisa).

Students who applied for NSFAS and their registration is not paid up by NSFAS should be allowed to receive their books. The university should find a way to allow these students to complete their registration.

All NSFAS qualifying students admitted by Unisa will be allowed to register, provided that they are registering for their first formal undergraduate qualification. NSFAS must commit and engage jointly with Unisa and the NSRC on the issue of books.

Unisa will engage publishers on behalf of students to negotiate discounted rates for prescribed books and the possibility of providing e-books.


Students who were using Council bursaries should be given another form of funding because the Council bursary was cancelled. The university should find another way to give these affected students funding.

Council approved an amount of R46 million for students funded in 2017. Criteria for the allocation of the funds have been approved for implementation.


Computer labs get crowded and yet other rooms are locked; they should all be opened for access.

The operating hours of all computer labs and related services provided at Unisa regional offices will be advertised. More effective administration of the computer labs will be explored with Unisa's regional management to ensure adequate access for students.


Digital resources (electronic devices). We demand the realisation of these devices to be distributed and disseminated from this very semester to avoid the possible disasters of late or the non-delivery of study materials as it happened during the first semester of 2017 where students had to bear unprecedented costs that have yet to be quantified.

A Roadmap to ODeL proposal was approved by Senate in May 2017. In June 2017, Mancom approved the provision of a laptop to all students receiving NSFAS funding.

Actions:

  • A “Student Device Specification” document was finalised in August 2017.
  • ICT has committed to piloting the provision of student devices during 2018.

Unisa has established a project team that includes student representation.