Rhodes University acknowledges the announcement yesterday by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (DHET), Dr Blade Nzimande, that Cabinet took a decision that funding for DHET would have to be reprioritised to address the National Student Financial Aid Scheme is a South African (NSFAS) funding shortfall.
Today, the University leadership met with the Student Representative Council (SRC) to reflect on this announcement and its implications for the University.
Accordingly, the registration deadline has now been moved to 26 March 2021. This is to accommodate students who could not register, pending the confirmation of their funding by the NSFAS. Affected students are advised to register as soon as their NSFAS funding is confirmed.
Given the position of NSFAS about not funding the LLB ‘two-plus three’ year degree structure, the University has put in place creative ways to enable academically deserving LLB students to register. The University has on numerous occasions engaged with the Department on issues pertaining to the recognition of the structure of the degree.
The academic year will now commence on Monday, 15 March on a slow start while the registration process remains open. Academic Departments and the Student Affairs Division have put plans in place to bring all students that register late up to speed with orientation, academic and other University activities.
It is expected that DHET will release the NSFAS Bursary Guidelines within the next week to institutions. These guidelines will confirm details relating to allowances, including learning material, travel, incidental and accommodation. However, the University will start paying allowances to all NSFAS qualifying returning Oppidan students on Monday, 15 March. The interim payments will be calculated on last year’s rates.
It is disconcerting that every single year universities have to contend with this challenge of funding for academically deserving students from poor and working-class backgrounds. It is imperative that DHET and other role-players find a long term, affordable and financially sustainable mechanism of funding deserving students. The instability that marks the beginning of each academic year has a hugely harmful effect on Higher Education in our country.