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The SRC exists to serve all students

Section 35 of the Higher Education Act, No.101 of 1997, as amended, compels all institutions of public higher education in South Africa to have Student Representative Councils (SRCs) as part of their governing structures. And, like all institutions of public higher education, Unisa has an SRC structure elected in accordance with an adopted Constitution, subjected to the Higher Education Act and the Institutional Statute.

The Constitution of the SRC binds the SRC and all the structures of student governance and is the supreme document that regulates all student governance structures at Unisa.

However, the context of an SRC at Unisa differs from those at other institutions, given its footprint that covers all the four corners of South Africa, not to mention its reach in Africa and globally.

All the other universities in South Africa are contact institutions with a defined, limited scope and reach. The matter of student representation at Unisa, by contrast, has to take into account that it enrols at any given time in excess of 360 000 students per academic year, with the bulk coming from the nine national provinces of South Africa. The second biggest institution is North West University with just over 74 000 students.

‘Thus, to serve this huge number of students effectively, it is imperative to have our SRC structures decentralised, with the National SRC complemented by the nine Regional SRCs’ said Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, the Dean of Students at Unisa. 

All members of the SRC and other structures of student governance serve in these structures on a voluntary basis and have no expectation of remuneration. Neither do they seek financial nor resource gratification from either the University or the students.

Any student of the University is eligible to serve on the SRC if they meet the following requirements:

  • A student who has been registered for a formal undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in any of the Colleges of the University for at least two semesters prior to the commencement of the student’s term. 

  • If an undergraduate student, such a student must have passed a minimum of ten modules towards a diploma or degree enrolled for at the time of the student’s nomination or the time the student is included in a preference list of the student organisation contesting elections.

  • A student who has not been found guilty by a duly authorised body of the University for violation of the student code of conduct or any rules and regulations of the University.

The term of office of the SRC is two years. To remain in office, all members of the SRC are required to pass at least fifty per cent of the registered modules per academic year. This is done in order to entrench the principle of academic progress, with the Directorate: Student Development enforcing compliance with this requirement through an audit of the records of the SRC members.

All students of the university registered for any formal undergraduate or postgraduate qualification are eligible to vote during SRC elections held every two years. The exceptions are students registered for short learning programmes and those whose rights have been limited due to disciplinary action taken against them.

The elected National SRC is composed of a President, Deputy President, Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, Treasurer General, Education and Training Officer, Sports and Cultural Officer, National Postgraduate Studies Officer and National Undergraduate Studies Officer.

These elected members are deployed to serve on various governance structures of the University, including Council, Senate and the Institutional Forum, as the voice of the students. This is over and above many other engagement forums within and outside the University, where they appear on behalf of the broader Unisa student community.

In recognition of the critical role played by the SRC (and other student governance structures) in the life of the University, including the amount of work and sacrifices involved, Unisa makes provision in its annual budget allocation for expenditure relating to the business of the SRC and other student governance structures. Amongst the areas covered by this expenditure are the following:

  • Accommodation for the nine members of the National SRC, who after elected into office, have to relocate from the different provinces to Tshwane, where the bulk of the NSRC’s work is carried out. 

  • Payment of a relocation allowance to NSRC members relocating to Tshwane.

  • Provision of University-owned mobile phones and laptops.

  • A 50 % rebate towards the study fees of the NSRC and RSRC members.

  • Provision of branded and non-branded apparel for the NSRC and RSRC members.

  • Payment for travel and accommodation for the NSRC and RSRC members, for official business of the University.

‘It must be emphasised that it is standard practice for all institutions of public higher education to provide this kind of assistance to SRC members, and Unisa is no exception to this. Furthermore, these resources are provided for and managed by the University, applying strict fiscal discipline. None of the student leaders, past or current, control the disbursement of these resources. It is strictly a Management responsibility.’ Furthermore, all of the SRC members are treated equally in the disbursement of these benefits, irrespective of affiliation to any of the student organisations’, added Dr Chalufu.

Written by the Directorate: Communication in the Department of Institutional Advancement as part of a series to create awareness about the role of student governance structures. In the next instalment, we will focus on the Student Parliament and its role in the life of the University.

Publish date: 2017/10/18