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Varsities upbeat on ‘new approach

Rhodes University says it is ready for the new academic year despite threats that ongoing #FeesMustFall protests that disrupted academic learning in 2016 would continue.

QUIET SO FAR: Despite fears of a resurgence of last year’s #FeesMustFall protests, Rhodes University is confident of a smooth opening to the 2017 programme Picture: FILE

The university was one of only a few nationally to successfully complete the full academic year, including year-end exams, for nearly all courses.

Vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela said the university was committed to a successful 2017 academic year concentrating on its core business of teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

“Challenges will have to be faced as the fees issue has not been resolved nationally and the financial viability of individual institutions, including Rhodes, is still at risk,” a statement said. According to Mabizela, universities had sought to mitigate these challenges by revising their approach to issues of finance and registration.

“New approaches to these issues have also been required due to two external developments: the Department of Education’s fee grant to ‘the missing middle’ and the new ‘student centred’ National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) model.”

Walter Sisulu University spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo yesterday said the 2017 registration process was continuing as originally planned.

She said the 2016 academic year was completed and campus unrest had not impacted the year-end exams.

“The national issue of #FeesMustFall has not been resolved, it is pending and hanging in the background and can destabilise institutions, but it is not in our control.

“For now we are proceeding as per our registration schedule.”

Although #FeesMustFall leaders vowed last year that nationwide campus protests would continue in 2017, Daily Dispatch attempts to get comment from them yesterday proved fruitless.

Mabizela said about 300 students had deferred their end-of-year exams until January this year and that these would commence on January 23 until February 10, delaying the planned start of the 2017 academic by a week.

To smooth registration, students have been allowed to register online.

Although a registration fee is payable NSFAS-supported students and those from the “missing middle” are excluded from this.

Mabizela emphasised that no academically deserving but financially needy student would be excluded from studying at Rhodes, saying financial support was available in a number of forms. — davidm@dispatch.co.za