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Nelson Mandela University has always been resolute in its commitment towards social justice. To this end, the University remains committed to ongoing efforts to widen access to higher education for students, in particular those from poor and working class backgrounds.

This includes ongoing institutional efforts towards ensuring that no academically deserving, financially needy student is denied access to higher education due to financial constraints. As such, the institution has constantly engaged its student leadership on such matters in earnest since 2016.

This morning, students barricaded entrances to the University’s North and South campuses in protest against the current national funding challenges, and in response to the call by the South African Union of Students (SAUS) for a national shutdown of higher education.

As a standing principle, a series of meetings were held during the course of the day with leaders of the protesting student formations and, ultimately, the Student Representative Council (SRC). Emanating from these fruitful engagements, agreement was reached on a number of issues relating to the ongoing national discussions around student funding.


The Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande’s announcement on Cabinet’s decision for additional funding to the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) last week enabled the University to make significant strides with regards to the registration of students.

Since then, more than 18 000 students have been given NSFAS funding status, with more than 4 500 students registered at the University this weekend alone.


The University’s Admissions Office is working to finalise about 2 000 “change of mind” applications from admitted students whose final matric results did not qualify them for their desired first choice. These applications closed on Friday, 12 March 2021.

Financial Aid

NSFAS has also released the list of 7 501 first-time entering students (FTENs) who have been approved funding, and who are now able to register. For returning students, funding for 8 375 students have already been loaded, with an additional 2 231 statuses loaded today (15 March 2021). So far, 18 107 students have had their NSFAS statuses loaded. Allowances were disbursed at the weekend, to at least 7 000 returning students.

Historic Debt

The University is now in the process of clearing all academically deserving, but financially needy students, who meet the concessions criteria, for registration upon signing an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD). This is inclusive of first time entering students who are unfunded, and who will be cleared for registration upon meeting the concessions criteria.


The University is poised for a staggered start to the academic year.

Academic activities for first year students this week include continuing with orientation activities and preparing students for online and mask-to-mask learning. The bulk of these activities will be online, meaning there is no need for first-year students to come to campus, unless their lecturers indicates as such or students need to book the use of the general computer labs to participate in these activities.

For returning students, there will be no formal academic activities this week, with this time to be used for planning. Faculties will be communicating with senior and postgraduate students with information related to their modules and programmes.

More formal academic work will begin from Tuesday, 23 March 2021, onwards. Lecturers will communicate directly with students in this regard, indicating whether they need to attend any mask-to-mask activities on campus.

All Mandela University students, irrespective of whether they are registered or not, are in the process of being provided with data for March, to enable their participating in online academic activities.

Senate has decided that there will be no automatic academic exclusions. Students who would otherwise be excluded based on their academic performance will be allowed to return, and will participate in a programme to support them in their academic journeys.

University Funding Support

As part of its commitment to widen participation of students from poor and working class backgrounds in postgraduate studies, and in the absence of an overarching national policy to fund postgraduate education, the University has continued to increase its yearly allocation towards this category of study.  To this end, an allocation of R75.9-million towards postgraduate funding to assist students progressing from NSFAS funded undergraduate studies.

The University’s Strategic Resource Mobilisation and Advancement office continues to mobilise funding to improve existing funding mechanisms, which include continued assistance to missing middle students.


Mandela University is mindful of not only the prevailing funding challenges nationally, but also the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and their academic performance in the past year. The University remains resolute in its efforts towards student access for success, while also working to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the institution.

The University also commits to continue working with all relevant stakeholders, including the SRC, towards ensuring that no deserving student is left behind.

Nelson Mandela University Management and the Mandela Student Representative Council

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777