Engagements with students about exclusions

30 March 2017
 

30 March 2017

Dear students and colleagues

For the past couple of weeks, the Rapid Response Task Team (RRTT), in collaboration with the deputy registrar, and staff in the Finance, Financial Aid and Undergraduate Funding offices, have been engaging with the students from the Shackville TRC / SRC Candidates groups about concerns raised by students about financial and academic exclusions.

Several meetings have been held and information has been exchanged in order to get an accurate picture of students affected in various ways by the outcomes of financial and readmissions appeals. The RRTT was informed that many students wanted to request reviews of the Readmissions Appeals Committees outcomes. Hence, on 23 March the Vice-Chancellor?s Management Advisory Group decided that a message should be sent to all students reminding them of their right to request a review and informing them that students awaiting outcomes of appeals or the review process itself should be entitled to access to class and learning materials via Vula pending the outcomes of these processes. A message was sent via Facebook and Twitter to students to this effect on 22 March and to the Shackville TRC / SRC Candidates.

Yesterday afternoon, the University of Cape Town executive had a lengthy meeting with a group of about 100 students to discuss academic exclusions and, to a lesser extent, financial exclusion issues. We agreed on the need to review all academic exclusions and to alert the students to apply individually to initiate the review process, but at the end of the meeting a group of about 30 people decided to occupy the Mafeje Room in the Bremner building.

Members of the Special Executive Task Team met at length on the issue yesterday evening and we agreed on the following:

  • An automatic review of all academic exclusions (some 150 cases) will be concluded over the next few days, with the target deadline of Tuesday, 5 April 2017.
  • Excluded students who do not wish to be the subject of such a review need to indicate this to the deputy registrar?s office by 17:00 today.
  • A panel consisting of a maximum of four senior academics will be selected to complete the review.
  • Two student Faculty Council chairs (elected by Faculty Councils) will act as observers to the review.

We informed those occupying the Mafeje Room of these decisions last night. They indicated that they would need to consult more broadly on the proposal and asked that we reconvene at noon today. In the meantime, the executive is putting the review panel in place, and we have asked colleagues who work in Bremner not to come to their offices today.

Progress on financial exclusions

Following on from yesterday?s meetings, I feel that it is important to update you on the signifcant progress that we have made in responding to cases of possible financial exclusions. UCT has an extensive programme in place for this purpose and, as a result, 1 173 students have been assisted so far this year alone.

This was in line with the commitment made by the executive to the principle that we would assist, as far as possible, students who qualify for financial aid through NSFAS and students from the ?missing middle? who face financial challenges.

The university has committed a total amount of R15.6 million to aiding students who faced the possibility of being financially excluded.

As at 22 March 2017, a total of 1 312 appeals had been considered by the Student Financial Aid Office. Out of these, 1 173 were successful: 803 students will be continuing with their studies and 370 with debt have received assistance to graduate. In addition, we have made a commitment to assist students who are not in their first year or final year of study and did not get the 50% pass requirement set by NSFAS where we have assessed that they are likely to qualify for NSFAS in 2018.

About 59 cases are still pending due to outstanding supporting documentation from the students. The only appeals that were unsuccessful are students whose family income is above the funding threshold of R550 000 per annum; students who are not eligible because they have postgraduate debt, students who have previous qualifications, SADC students or international students.

In conclusion, the UCT executive has taken an approach to ensure that, as far as possible, all students are accommodated and their situations are handled on a case-by-case basis. It must be recognised, however, that in the final analysis there will be students who will be academically excluded for legitimate reasons and some students who will be financially excluded as they are not eligible or do not qualify for assistance. We are working hard to ensure that the process of decision-making is fair and follows the correct procedures.

In terms of the occupation of the Mafeje Room in the Bremner building, the executive has appealed to and urged the group to vacate the premises urgently. We are of the view that the occupation is unacceptable, it is in breach of the agreement we have and is interfering with our working activities. We are considering several action steps.

Sincerely

Professor Loretta Feris
Acting Vice-Chancellor


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