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Following the series of positive engagements held between Nelson Mandela University management and student representatives at its campuses in Gqeberha and George yesterday, the parties found each other on a number of issues raised.

Among students’ top concerns was the start of lectures this week while some students who, for various reasons, have not been able to register. The affected students are mainly senior or returning students, some of whom have funding challenges beyond the University’s control.

Students were reminded of the numerous interventions in place to ensure that all admitted students are registered for the 2022 academic year. This, in keeping with the University’s ongoing commitment to ensure that academically deserving, financially needy students are not denied access to higher education.


The University has finalised its undergraduate admissions and is expediting the finalisation of postgraduate admissions.


To date, more than 26 000 students have registered with the University, including a record number of 7 254 first-time entering students. This number already exceeds projected expectations and additional registrations are anticipated before late registration closes on 04 March 2022.

More than 2000 of the first-time entering students registered over the weekend after their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding statuses were forwarded to the University.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

The University is in daily contact with NSFAS and is sending a team to Cape Town towards resolving the outstanding issues that are mainly affecting senior or returning students.

University financial concessions

As part of the University’s ongoing efforts towards widening access to higher education, numerous institutional mechanisms have been put in place. These include the institution making available several financial concessions since 2016, mainly enabling students to register with outstanding debt.

As at Monday (14 February 2022), the University had received 7 187 applications for financial concessions for qualifying students up to and including the “missing middle” students (whose household income is more than R350 000 and less than R600 000), with 4 311 applications approved.

A number of those approved (1 679) were ultimately funded by NSFAS and have since fallen off the list. About 500 applications were unsuccessful due to students not meeting the criteria, and the University received 189 appeals. These appeals have been dealt with and the outcome thereof will be communicated to the applicants shortly whilst new appeals and applications will be processed and concluded expeditiously.

Postgraduate student funding

The higher education funding dispensation of the past few years (since 2017) has largely been geared towards undergraduate tuition and residence funding, with relatively no provision for postgraduate students whose undergraduate studies were funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

This has therefore posed a challenge to those students from poor and working-class backgrounds wishing to continue with their studies at postgraduate level – many due to the growing unemployment after graduating. This was raised during the #FeesMustFall engagements as an area of concern.

To this end, Mandela University established a bursaries and financial aid system for the benefit of deserving and qualifying postgraduate students, which has grown significantly in recent years, from R49.8-million a year in 2015 to R116-million in 2022. This, through reprioritising its budgets and in keeping with the commitment towards student access.

The bursary scheme covers mainly tuition, and the request from students for an additional R50-million injection cannot be met, given the significant provision already in place.


Data has been provided to all registered students, including the unregistered first-time entering, and those continuing students who are still working to resolve NSFAS issues or have applied for financial concessions.

Access to University Platforms

ICT Services has supplied user accounts for first-year students who have not yet registered so that they can log in to platforms including Wi-Fi, labs, email and i-Learn (Moodle). These details have been communicated directly with affected students via SMS and contain their username and password. This username and email address will enable them to access communication from their lecturers and i-Learn (Moodle) as well as their timetables.

Therefore, students who have not yet been able to register can and are encouraged to attend classes until they are able to do so. This will ensure that students do not fall behind on the year’s academic activities due to the present challenges.

Temporary accommodation for unfunded senior or returning students

Students called for senior or returning students, who are yet to secure funding, to be accommodated at University residences to access learning and teaching facilities while they await outcomes of their funding applications.

Mandela University has never turned away qualifying students arriving on campus without confirmed funding, and Student Housing had thus long made provision for the temporary accommodation of such students.

An area that has been under consideration and being explored is that of fundraising, in conjunction with the institution’s Strategic Resource Mobilisation and Advancement (SRMA) office, to assist in this regard.

Driving licences

Students have submitted a business plan for exploration of the idea with a view to potentially mobilising external funding and partnerships.  

Student debt

Financial sustainability remains one of the greatest challenges in the higher education sector, particularly since the introduction of fee-free education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds.

Many institutions are hamstrung by significant student debt, collectively running into billions of Rands, which essentially poses a threat to their financial sustainability.

As at the end of December 2021, student debt at Mandela University stood at R322 915 884, which was down R34 961 231 on the previous year. Therefore, ongoing efforts to recover this amount are aimed at ensuring the continued viability of the University.


Nelson Mandela University is steadfast in its commitment to work with its student representatives in addressing some of the broader higher education challenges that inevitably affect the institution and its student body.

As such, ongoing engagements are held with student leadership regularly in a bid to provide a platform for issues affecting student access and success to be voiced and dealt with appropriately.

It was through these ongoing engagements that the bulk of the issues raised by the protesting students yesterday had been largely attended to by the time University entrances were blockaded.

It is the institution’s wish that through the various internal structures and mechanisms established, any and all issues are attended to as per the existing engagement protocols, towards a positive Mandela University experience for all.