Report on the meeting of UCT Council of 21 February 2022

21 February 2022

Dear members of the UCT community

The University of Cape Town Council met earlier today, Monday, 21 February, to consider the difficult issue of unpaid fees that are preventing some students from re-registering for the new academic year. Student fee debt is a national problem. Earlier this month, the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande reported that R16.5 billion was owed by students to public universities in South Africa. Cumulative fee debt at our university currently stands at R317.8 million. At the same time, we provide financial support every year to about 50% of our undergraduate students and about 35% of our postgraduate students. For the 2021 academic year, this financial support amounted to approximately R1.7 billion.

For some students – but not all – Council agreed to suspend the block on students re-registering for the 2021 academic year. This suspension was for one year only and, for the 2022 academic year, students with fee arrears of more than R10 000 have so far not been permitted to register, subject to appeal. However, we also know that there are students with fee debt higher than R10 000 who have the potential to complete their courses of study. The special meeting of Council was called to consider the plight of these students.

The outcomes of Council’s deliberations resulted in the following decision:

The provision of progressive financial assistance for students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are important interventions that contribute to the current socio-economic challenges facing the country. Such assistance must be provided in ways that do not threaten the financial sustainability of the university.

Consequently, Council has made a number of resolutions in this regard.

  1. The current fee block on student registrations should be removed for the 2022 academic year for all students who are eligible to re-register on academic grounds. This concession will apply to students who are South African citizens, South African Permanent Residents, from SADC countries and from other countries in Africa. It will not apply to students registered for courses at the Graduate School of Business (GSB), or who are international students from continents other than Africa.
  2. The university executive will review current financial aid and fees policies, to develop proposals for reform that will align with Vision 2030 with the objective of ensuring that the allocation of financial assistance is aligned with demonstrable financial need. Proposals will be brought to Council for consideration in time for implementation for the 2023 academic year.
  3. The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) will be invited to take part in a joint working group with university management, to ensure that students who will benefit from the additional fee block concessions for 2022 can complete their registrations as rapidly as possible, so that their academic progress is not compromised.

We are confident that this additional support to our students will make a significant and material contribution to their ability to realise their potential at UCT.


Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA)
Chair of UCT Council

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