Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande has published a directive outlining funding and tuition guidelines for the 2020 academic year for public higher education institutions.
This also provides additional information on the return-to-campus plans outlined by Nzimande last week.
The directive gazetted on 5 October 2020 includes background on the national, co-ordinated plan for the completion of the 2020 academic year as well as the allocation of funds from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
It notes that the lockdown has resulted in a number of changes to the 2020 academic year, with the majority of higher education students returning home under the level 5 lockdown in March 2020, which saw the initial closure of universities and other institutions.
“The approach has been to ensure that all considerations are based on saving lives and saving the academic year, while giving all students a fair opportunity to succeed academically and complete the 2020 academic year,” the directive states.
“While the majority of students have not been living in their on- or off-campus-based accommodation for parts of the 2020 academic year, remote multi-modal teaching and learning has continued for students and will continue for those who have not returned under the current temporary lockdown regulations.”
The directive outlined the following considerations regarding the 2020 academic year:
- The 2020 academic year will be extended and is likely to only be completed in the first part of the 2021 calendar year.
- All public higher education institutions have committed to complete the 2020 academic year. The exact dates will differ for institutions but will include periods of remote teaching and learning and face to face /contact teaching when allowed, to ensure that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year.
- NSFAS has continued to disburse allowances to all NSFAS beneficiaries while the 2020 academic year is underway.
- The cost for tuition should remain at the same level for the 2020 academic year regardless of the time frame for a student to complete and the mode of delivery for completion.
- The cost for university-owned accommodation remains at the same level for the academic year, regardless of its length, capped to the end of March 2021.
- NSFAS allowances have continued to be paid to students during the lockdown period and therefore NSFAS students are expected to continue to pay private accommodation providers in terms of the original lease agreements.
The extension of the academic year has resulted in multiple universities adopting their own approaches to ensure its completion in line with the national strategy.
Students to return under level 1
Speaking last week, Nzimande said that universities are now able to allow local and international students back to campus.
However, he added that this would be subject to each university’s own risk assessment and strategy for ensuring the completion of the 2020 academic year.
“All universities are implementing their plans to return all students and staff from 1 October subject to any restrictions linked to their own risk assessment due to their local context and conditions,” he said.
“Returning international students, who remain outside the country, need to meet the requirements of the COGTA regulations, which include having a test not older than 72 hours, showing that they are negative for the virus on arrival in South Africa.”
“If not, they will need to go into quarantine at their own expense for at least 10 days before proceeding to their respective institutions,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande said at the time that 10 universities aim to complete the academic year before the end of the 2020 calendar year, while four plan to end in January 2021, seven in February 2021, and five plan to complete in March 2021.
With the announcement of the National Senior Certificate examination results expected late in February next year, Nzimande said the new academic year for first-year students would be staggered between 8 March 2021 and 12 April 2021.