DUT student bail-out could affect first-years

Students hoping to enrol as first years at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) next year could be in for a shock: they might not get funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to study there.

This is because the reopening of the DUT campus on Monday, after its closure last week following fees-related student protests and police action, has come at a steep price — DUT has dug into its own pockets to ensure that no student who meets both DUT’s rules regarding academic progression and NSFAS criteria is excluded.

Mail & Guardian Education reported last week that the campus protests originated in students complaining that NSFAS funds owing to them had not arrived and that they therefore faced exclusion because they were in arrears on fee payments.
DUT acting vice-chancellor Nqabomzi Gawe said at the time that it would cost DUT R35-million to pick up the debt itself.

This it has now done. But next year could see the choice biting for another group of students: “If no further funding is obtained from either NSFAS or the higher education department, there will be no funding for first-time NSFAS applicants,” Gawe announced in a statement at the weekend.

DUT management could not give an indication of how many students might be affected.

Last week’s protests disrupted lectures at both the ML Sultan and the Steve Biko campuses of DUT after it emerged that 2079 students who qualify for state financial assistance but had not received their NSFAS funds could be deregistered.

The suspension of all academic activities on Wednesday last week followed months of upheaval at DUT, which has a volatile history of management and student instability dating from the 2001 merger between ML Sultan Technikon and Technikon Natal that gave birth to DUT.

In 2006, then-education minister Naledi Pandor intervened by appointing Chabani Manganyi, former vice-principal of the University of Pretoria, to assess the university’s state of management.

Manganyi’s report suggested extensive management corruption, with some student involvement, and led Pandor to appoint Jonathan Jansen (now vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State) as DUT administrator in August 2006.

Jansen’s one-month period of administration led to the appointment of a new council, which in August 2007 appointed Roy du Pré as vice-chancellor.

Du Pré is respected in tertiary circles for his time as head of the former committee of technikon principals and as deputy vice-chancellor (academic) of the then Vaal Technikon (now Vaal University of Technology).

But he resigned suddenly in March this year, halfway through his five-year contract at DUT.

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David Macfarlane
Guest Author

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