With the release of Matric results last week, many budding young students are ready to register at their chosen universities and the prospect of free education for first year students is a hot topic.

In December, 2017, President Jacob Zuma announced that free education would be granted to first years from households with a combined annual income of up to R350 000, however, implementing this is a process which has just begun.

Universities of South Africa (USAF) CEO Ahmed Bawa

Following a meeting on Monday, which included representatives from the country’s 26 universities, Universities of South Africa (USAF) CEO Ahmed Bawa said that South Africa will have a fee-based tertiary education system after government implements its new funding scheme. Bawa added that each university would still set its own fees, to be approved by the institution’s council, which would then be paid by bursaries funded by the Department of Higher Education.

According to media reports, the department’s bursaries differ to the previous NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) loans scheme in that they will not be capped and will be differential to each university.
In the reports, Bawa said the higher education department would provide further details on its new funding scheme during the course of the week.

Communications Manager for Durban University Technology (DUT), Noxolo Memela said that DUT welcomes the call for free education, however, the university does
not have an administrative system for free higher education. “DUT prospective and continuing students who come from households that meet the required threshold for free higher education, need to be cleared by NSFAS and provide evidence to that effect. Students without evidence upon registration are required to pay the minimum first instalment required,” said Memela.
Acting Executive Director of Corporate Relations Division for the University of KwaZulu-Nataln (UKZN), Normah Zondo said that NSFAS would be integral to the process. “The University will work with NSFAS to assist with funding decisions for first-time entering students who have registered with the University without having applied for NSFAS funding,” said Zondo.

UKZN added that process was ongoing as thousands of applicants were being processed. “UKZN received more than 91 002 applications for the 8776 spaces available in the first-year undergraduate academic programmes. As at end of November around 4 855 provisional offers were made to applicants. Firm offers are now being made, following the release of the National Senior Certificate, Grade 12 results,” said Zondo. This process will take place from the 11 January onwards added Zondo.

Students can register on the Department of Higher Education and Training’s website for possible university placement if they did not register in 2017.