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2018 academic year: It is all systems go, says Universities South Africa

Thabo Mohlala

The management of the country’s 26 universities is working diligently to assist learners who qualify for financial assistance to ensure no one is left out before the academic year kicks off next month.

This is what transpired yesterday at a meeting between the department of higher education and training (DHET), National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and Universities South Africa (USAf). The troika is very crucial in ensuring the coordination of all plans and systems related to the implementation of the fee-free higher education

Among the prominent figures who attended the meeting were NSFAS’s chairperson, Sizwe Nxasana, DHET’s Diane Parker and USAF’s Professor Ahmed Bawa.

According to Bawa, the meeting was fruitful as it helped further clarify the role of each player to make sure every qualifying student receives financial support to realise his or her dream of studying at a university of their choice.

“We discussed in greater detail every aspect related to the funding issue so that we can guide and advise students and the parents how to go about registering without any glitches,” said Bawa.

He said their main priority was to assist students who have applied to universities but have not applied for financial aid.

For instance, NSFAS has revised its old family earnings threshold of R122,000 to R350,000 and it is crucial that this information is made readily available. Students who qualify will have to contact the Financial Aid Office at their university and ask to be considered for an NSFAS bursary.

The other crucial bit of information relates to students who failed to apply to a university. They will have to apply online or apply via the DHET’s Central Application Clearing House (CACH) system which would allow DHET, universities and TVET colleges to work jointly to place them across the system.

Bawa said even though he cannot predict the future with some measure of accuracy, he is optimistic all will go according to plan. “It is not like there is a looming crisis except the attempt to politicise the issue”, said Bawa.

He said the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) call for students to register in person at various tertiary institutions caused them some anxiety. However, Bawa applauded the organisation “for having identified that community of students” who are now being prioritised.  

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