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19/03/2018

As Nelson Mandela University draws close to the end of the first term, strides have been made in addressing the myriad of challenges that often come with the start of an academic year.

Using multi-stakeholder engagements through various working groups and task teams, which include student representatives, the University has been dealing with financial aid and other admissions and registration-related issues since the beginning of the year.

Since the resumption of administrative operations in early January, the University has been working hard to ensure a relatively smooth start to the year, tackling issues related, but not limited to admissions, accommodation and financial aid.

The work included activation initiatives to get qualifying students to apply for the new bursary scheme (financial aid) and register, as well as engaging external stakeholders – including political parties – who came to oversee the admissions and registration process with a focus on how the University was dealing with the practicalities of the new funding model.

While progress has been made in these areas since then, there are persisting challenges that the University, through its consultative engagements, is attending to.

Registration:

As at close of business on Friday (16 March), a total 26 484 students have been successfully registered, which is 6% more than the 24 983 students who were registered at the same time last year. Of the 2018 registrations, 7 630 are first year students – 6 234 first-time entering students and 1 396 postgraduate students.

The first year intake is up 20% from last year’s 6 374, with the enrolments of first-time entering students having increased by 24%, from 5 028.

Registration is ongoing as the late registration period ends on 29 March 2018.

Financial Aid:

Up until last week, the University’s Financial Aid office had received 7 488 applications for financial assistance. Of those, 6 199 received the necessary assistance and have been able to register. About 1 700 students from the assisted 6 199 qualified for NSFAS funding under the new funding dispensation and their applications have been forwarded to the financial aid scheme as additional applications. The University is awaiting feedback in this regard and is pressing to get responses soon so as not to hamper progress already made in the financial aid area.

In the meantime, arrangements have been made for those first year students who are awaiting feedback from NSFAS and are in University residences to receive meals daily.

Arrangements have also been made for postgraduate students who will be financially assisted from the University coffers to receive an allowance that they can use at their discretion for food, accommodation or transport needs.

The Financial Aid office is submitting claims to NSFAS on a daily basis in an effort to get all qualifying students’ allowances paid as soon as possible.

Accommodation:

received 7 488 applications for financial assistance. Of those, 6 199 received the necessary assistance and have been able to register. About 1 700 students from the assisted 6 199 qualified for NSFAS funding which are almost fully occupied by students.

The demand for student accommodation remains a national challenge as the need still far outweighs supply. This has been compounded this year by the new funding dispensation that has seen more students qualifying for fee-free higher education.

The University’s Student Housing office has encountered a number of challenges since January that have impacted on the residence admissions process. These include the early arrival of students prior to the start of the academic year, which had a ripple effect on cleaning and maintenance schedules and the timeous allocation of rooms.

Student Housing also had to open up another residence, in addition to those set aside for students writing supplementary exams, to accommodate students who arrived on campus - with no prior accommodation arrangements - to enquire about their admissions and financial aid statuses.

Student Housing continues to work towards the resolution of any prevailing challenges.

During the course of the year, the university will unveil concrete medium and long term plans to address the perennial issue of student housing. 

Shuttle Service:

A marked increase in the demand for transport – as a result of increased numbers in accredited off-campus accommodation and Missionvale students requiring shuttles – was the biggest challenge for the Student Shuttle Service.

Consultative meetings were held with students resulting in transitional arrangements whilst we finalise our  medium to longer-term plans.

Academic timetabling:

About 92 instances of overcrowding have been reported to date, with 18 of those remaining unsolved. The team is working towards the speedy resolution of these issues.

Student Nutritional Support:

Campus Health Services supplied more than 3 000 students needing assistance with food parcels, which has been made possible by Tigerbrands. These included students who are still awaiting their NSFAS allocation, residing in off-campus accommodation, those who were not loaded on the system yet, those not yet registered and those qualifying for debt relief.

The demand for food is increasing substantially at the Port Elizabeth and George campuses. At the end of last week, there were only a few products left and the department is awaiting the March delivery, which should arrive this week.

Campus Health hopes that NSFAS pays out student allowances in March as the supply according to the MOU is enough to supply 1 100 students with food packs.

An integrated approach to addressing student nutrition is being worked out in a form of a food bank in collaboration with My Mandela SRC 18.

Financial Aid Task Team

The FATT continues to meet to review and oversee the implementation of the financial concessions agreed to between management and the SRC to ensure access to academically deserving financially needy students. This is enabled by daily operational meetings between the Student Accounts department and the SRC.

Safety and Security Task Team

This task team continues its work through a number of initiatives aimed at improving the overall safety environment of the University. There are noted improvements in access monitoring at the University entrances and visible patrols by Protection Services staff around campuses, among others.

Much like in the attempts at curbing crime in the country, a myriad of challenges are encountered in the bid to adequately address safety and security related issues at the University.

The University is currently working on a comprehensive safety and security strategy. The strategy will also incorporate a pledge – a set of binding responsibilities to University safety – that will be unveiled as a public commitment of the University to creating and maintaining a safe and secure environment for its stakeholders.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za