Student Fees 2018: FAQs for parents, fee-payers and students

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Critical considerations informing the 2018 fee structure?

Towards the end of 2017, Rhodes University Management met with the leadership of both the outgoing and the incoming Students Representative Council to discuss the student fee framework for 2018.  A number of important issues were considered in these meetings including:

  • The rising costs of services, food, electricity and other charges due to inflation;
  • As students will know, universities receive a subsidy from the government and also tuition fees to allow them to operate.  The government subsidy is paid on identified dates each year and financial planning must take account of when these amounts are to be paid.  Until the end of 2015, the Minimum Initial Payment (MIP) charged by the University was 50% of both residence and tuition fees.  This large ‘upfront’ payment of tuition fees meant that the University had money to pay its costs at the end of every month until the government subsidy arrived. 

At the end of 2015, an agreement was reached whereby the MIP was replaced by a Registration Fee of 10% of both tuition and residence fees.  This meant that the amount of money paid to the University in January/February 2016 and 2017 was significantly reduced and, as a result, the payment of salaries and bills to cover, for example, food costs, became a problem.

In the discussions at the end of 2017, therefore, the need for inflation-linked adjustments to the Registration Fee (which will now be called the Initial Fee Payment) was at the top of the agenda to allow the University to meet its commitments to its staff, in the form of salaries, and to the suppliers of goods needed to keep the institution running.

In order to inform these discussions, research was conducted at other South African universities to see how the Initial Fee Payment charged by Rhodes University compared with those at others. This research showed that the Initial Fee Payment at Rhodes University proportionally, is one of the lowest in the country. 

The incoming and outgoing SRCs discussed a number of scenarios each proposing different inflation-linked adjustments in the Initial Fee Payment.  The scenario that was considered to be most acceptable by the student leadership structures was (i) an Initial Fee Payment for tuition of 10% and (ii) an Initial Fee Payment for residence of 25%. The adjustment in the Initial Fee Payment for residence is justifiable on the bases of critical operations and services such as food provisioning, electricity and water utilization which must be paid for at the end of every month.  If the University cannot pay its bills for water and electricity to Makana Municipality, then the entire town is at risk as the University is the biggest user of services in the town. 

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 Rhodes University Council approved Budget for 2018

Following the discussions between the Rhodes University management, the outgoing and incoming Students Representative Councils, a budget to run the University and a proposal for the 2018 fee structure needed to be presented to Council as it is only the Council that can approve charges to students.  Council met on 30th November 2017.  In the meantime, although the State President released the report of the Heher Judicial Commission on Student Fees on 13th November, there was no communication from the government regarding the status of its recommendations.  A decision from President Jacob Zuma only came on 16th December 2017 after the University had closed for the end of year recess.

At its meeting on 30th November 2017, the Rhodes University Council agreed that:


  1. Tuition and residence fees would be adjusted by 8% in 2018 to cover inflation.
  2. The Initial Fee Payment for tuition would remain at 10%
  3. The Initial Fee Payment for residence would be adjusted to 25%.


The Council was very aware of the need for the University to be able to meet its commitments by paying bills and salaries, it was also highly sensitive to the plight of poor students who struggle to pay fees.  At the time of the meeting, however, no announcement had been made by the President regarding assistance to students in 2018.  As indicated above, this announcement by the President only came on 16th December after the University had closed for the year. 

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 What are the implications for students?

The University’s understanding of the communication from the President (taking into consideration discussions with officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training) is as follows:

  1. New first-year undergraduate South African students from poor and working-class households where the combined family income does not exceed R350 000 per annum, will be supported through government grants, administered by NSFAS, as per their guidelines and procedures;
  2. SASSA grant recipients and applicants from quintiles 1, 2, and 3 schools qualify for NSFAS grants. Students in this category should have applied for this grant as published on the NSFAS website before the closing date;
  3. Applicants who have applied to NSFAS should await confirmation of their application outcome. Applicants can track their application status on the NSFAS website;
  4. NSFAS grant recipients (new and returning students) will be allowed to register in 2018 without making an Initial Fee Payment for tuition and residence (if applicable). This is in accordance with NSFAS rules and regulations.
  5. Applicants who are from quintile 1-3 schools and SASSA beneficiaries will be allowed to register in 2018 without making an Initial Fee Payment for tuition and residence (if applicable).
  6. New first year students who meet the requirements of R 0 - R350 000 will be allowed to register in 2018 without making an Initial Fee Payment for tuition and residence (if applicable).
  7. New first year students from households where the combined household income is more than R350 000 but less than R600 000 are eligible to apply for gap funding to cover the 8% inflation linked adjustments in their tuition fees; application and verification forms for this purpose will be made available. Students who do not apply will automatically forfeit the gap funding from government and will be liable for the full payment of their fees.
  8. Returning students from households where the combined household income is more than R350 000 but less than R600 000 who received gap funding in 2017 will again receive gap funding in 2018.

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What if I am not eligible for assistance from the State?

If you are a new or returning student where the combined income of your household exceeds R600,000 per year, you have a number of payment options. 

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Option 1

You can pay an initial Registration fee of 10% of tuition fees and, where applicable, 25% of residence fees), by 19 January 2018.

For example, if your tuition fees are R48,000 per year, you will need to pay a 10% Initial Fee Payment of R4,800.  If your residence fee is R58 903, you will need to pay a 25% Initial Fee Payment of R14, 725.  This means that the total payment due on 19th January is R4,800.00 + R14,725.00 = R19,525.00

You then need to pay the remainder of your fees over the course of the year:

  1. A further 25% of the total amount due for both residence and tuition by 31 March 2018
  2. A further 25% by 30 June 2018
  3. A further 25% by 30 September 2018
  4. Any outstanding balance by 30 November 2018. 

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 Option 2

Students who are able to pay the entire amount due for fees before 19 January 2018 can make a direct deposit or internet transfer and claim a 5% discount

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Option 3

It is possible to pay all fees (both tuition and residence fees) using a debit order.  A debit order means that the total amount due for fees is divided into 11 monthly instalments and is deducted from a designated bank account from 1 February to 1 December.  An application form for a debit order can be obtained from the Student Bureau or the Student Fees Office and needs to be signed by the person whose bank account will be debited for the monthly instalments.   If you want to choose this option, you need to complete the debit order application form by 10 January 2018.

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 What if I am an international student?

The University is required to treat international students in accordance with their study permits.  International students are required to pay 50% of tuition and residence fees (where applicable) by 19th January 2018.  The remaining 50% of fees need to be paid by 31st May 2018

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 What if I don’t have a place at Rhodes University but would like to study there?

All South African universities negotiate enrolment targets with the Department of Higher Education and Training in three year cycles.  The negotiation of these enrolment targets allows the DHET to plan the way they are going to fund universities and ensure that students are provided with the best education possible.  If a university exceeds its enrolment target, any students it registers are ‘unfunded’.  This means that the university does not receive any money for teaching those students.   Class sizes increase, more lecturers cannot be employed to teach the additional students and mark their work and quality suffers.  Clearly this is not good for the students who are registered as ‘unfunded’.  

Rhodes University’s enrolment targets have been set for a long time now and the University has been working hard to ensure that every available place is filled by students who meet the entrance criteria.   The University has no desire whatsoever to deny a student a chance of studying.  However, we believe very firmly that the quality of education is critical and that planning in terms of not exceeding enrolments is one way to ensure that students are given the best possible chance of getting a very good degree that will serve them well through their entire lives.

Although it is natural for students who suddenly realise they can afford to study at a university to want to do so immediately, please think carefully about the implications of overcrowding and the inability of a university to provide you with the careful teaching and support you need to get the best degree possible.  If you cannot get a place at a university in 2018, it may be that your best option is to wait to study until 2019.  This year of waiting would not be wasted.  Many students who enter universities as more mature students come with experience that serves them well as they begin to engage with higher learning.

All students (both new and returning, and local and international) and funders are requested to scrutinize the 2018 Student Fee Booklet which may be accessed at:

Finally, as mentioned above, there is still a great deal of work to be done to implement the new student funding framework announced by the State President. The University will do its best to ensure that the implementation is as smooth and seamless as possible, but it is inevitable that there will be glitches. We earnestly appeal for patience and good will from all stakeholders during this exciting but challenging transition period.

Late applications

The University discourages ‘walk-in’ applications. Such applications pose a serious risk to the safety and security of staff and students.  Students who had not applied for admission by the end of last year must do the following:

  1. Access the Central Applications Clearing House (CACH) of the DHET and provide the required information.  This will make it possible for the students to access available spaces in their chosen fields in all universities and TVET Colleges.
  2. For clarity, additional information and/or late applications please send inquiries to with the following information: (i) Statement of Grade 12 results, (ii) first, second and third choice degree programmes, and (iii) an indication of whether or not your combined annual family income is below.

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Source:  Student Fees

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