Agreement not reached with striking Unisa students

The talks held yesterday (Tuesday, 08 January 2018) between the management of the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the National Student Representative Council (NSRC) ended in a stalemate as the two parties could not reach agreement on the key issues raised by the students; nor the university’s request for the NSRC to call off the strike.

The parties deliberated at length the issues contained in a Memorandum of Demands submitted to the university on 04 January 2019.

The table below provides an outline of the demands by the NSRC and concomitant responses of the university to the demands.

  • All students who completed higher certificates in 2018 should be allowed to proceed with registrations from 02 January 2019; and 
  • All qualifying students must find space in the university.
  • The university will make every effort to ensure that all 2018 Higher Certificate students who have applied for admission for cognate Bachelor’s degrees; and meet the admission requirements, will be accordingly registered.
  • Unisa is subject to the DHET Student Enrolment Planning Policy Framework and as such our head count is limited to 380 000 and the first-time entering students to 54 434. Unisa is not in a position to accept all qualifying students. However, Unisa Management has agreed to consider an additional 10 887 first-time entering students who have applied and who qualify.  
Fee increment by the university is rejected.

Unisa has an integrated planning process, which includes the preparation of a 3-year budget in accordance with pre-determined prescripts, and is approved by the Unisa Council, in terms of the HE Act. The annual fee increase is also considered during this MTEF process, and is an integral part of ensuring the financial sustainability of the institution.

The annual fee increase proposed and approved by Council was 6.9% (weighted).

However, the net fee increase to be implemented will be 5.3% in accordance with a national norm.

Whilst the NSRC welcomed the decision to supply NSFAS-funded students with laptops, they however reject the provision of laptops as a substitute for the R5000 textbook allowances. The demand is essentially for both the device and the relevant textbooks.

While several advances have been made to secure laptops for students, the choice of either a laptop or a textbook allowance in any one year of student funding is informed by the policy of NSFAS.

NB: in 2018, the university further made an allocation of R5 million from its coffers to purchase additional textbooks that are now available to registered students at all Unisa libraries.
The NSRC demands an urgent resolution of the matter regarding Unisa qualifications not registered with SAQA.

The management committee in early December 2018 considered a report from the Senate Teaching and Learning Committee which outlined a list of qualifications without SAQA IDs and resolved that all these qualifications will not be offered to new students in 2019 but would allow only pipeline students to continue. Unisa will continue to engage with the accreditation bodies to provide SAQA IDs for these qualifications and as soon as these are available, the qualifications will be re-opened and students allowed to register. This matter is receiving priority attention in the university.

The NSRC demands that the NSFAS must include all benefits and accord these to Unisa beneficiaries.

Currently NSFAS students receive the following allowances, at Unisa:

  • Tuition fees (excluding Aegrotat and supplementary exams)
  • Learning material allowance (ongoing allocation) / e-device allocation (once-off) up to a maximum of R5000 for a student registered for a minimum of 3 modules
    • R600 per module for students registered for less than 3 modules
  • Allowances for practical portion of qualification (specific qualifications / modules only), including full cost of accommodation and food
The NSRC demands the immediate resuscitation of the Unisa Call Centre.

In 2018 Council approved the establishment of a central structure for dealing with student queries, called the Student Communication Service Centre (SCSC). The first phase of the SCSC is already operational and is implementing an integrated system for UNISA to manage communication with students and other stakeholders, focusing on query resolution and the management of communication by telephone. Email and social media communication will be incorporated in the subsequent phases of implementation.

The university regrets that we were not able to arrive at a win-win solution in the talks with the NSRC. We hold a strong view that the matters raised by NSRC do not warrant a shutdown of campuses and disruption of operations. This is only to the detriment of the majority of students who want to register and proceed with their studies. We however urge our students to continue to register online as we endeavour to resolve the matter’, said Acting Unisa Principal and Vice Chancellor, Dr Marcia Socikwa. 

* Issued by Unisa Media Affairs 

Publish date: 2019/01/09