SA universities may not be able to take in any new students in 2017

If the stand-off between the government, universities, and protesting students does not end soon, the matric class of 2016 may be turned away from studying further in 2017.

According to a report by the Sunday Times, the lack of progress by the government and tertiary institutions in resolving the #FeesMustFall crisis means that next year’s intake of students at universities may be cancelled.

Experts say that if the current academic year is suspended at universities, the consequences will be “dire”.

Another concern is that university students who cannot complete their degrees this year may have to drop out, due to not being able to afford extending their studies into 2017.

Other students rely on visas to study in the country – which may expire before their degrees are completed.

Stellenbosch University education researcher Nic Spaull said if current university students have to add a year to their studies, their residences and similar accommodation will remain occupied in 2017 – meaning no room for new students.

Department of Higher Education director-general Gwebs Qonde stated that there are around 220,000 matriculants due to enter higher education next year.

Education analyst Graeme Bloch stated that the government “needs to lead by listening and engaging with legitimate stakeholder representatives”, while the report criticised the government’s lack of success in dealing with the protests.

Wits spokesman Shirona Patel told the Sunday Times that the impact of a shutdown would mean students not completing the academic programme, research would not be completed, exams and graduations would be postponed.

“There will be fewer professionals in the workplace in 2017, and some of the challenges for international students include needing to extend their visas, accommodation and flights.”

University of Cape Town spokesman Elijah Moholola said: “The university will not be able to have any intake of students in 2017. This would cause a cash-flow crisis and various other knock-on effects.”

University of Limpopo vice-chancellor Mahlo Mokgalong said suspending the academic year would be “one of the most regrettable things that could happen”.

“You’re looking at not having place for 6,000 students who would have come into the university, at a registration upfront payment in the region of R3,000.”

The University of KwaZulu-Natal said it had come up with an academic recovery plan that would result in November being used to recover lost time.

The full report is in the Sunday Times of 9 October 2016.

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SA universities may not be able to take in any new students in 2017