Unisa still con­cerned over num­bers

The Star Late Edition - - METRO - SIBONGILE MASHABA AND BONGANI NKOSI [email protected]

UNISA has warned that just like any other univer­sity it can­not en­rol all new ap­pli­cants qual­i­fy­ing for its cour­ses.

For the first time in its his­tory, the dis­tance-learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion re­jected thou­sands of qual­i­fy­ing ap­pli­cants cit­ing space lim­i­ta­tions.

This was one the is­sues that fu­elled the stu­dents’ strike at key cam­puses last week. The SRC de­manded ad­mis­sion of all qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents.

As one of the con­ces­sions to end the strike, Unisa agreed to take in 25 000 more qual­i­fy­ing ap­pli­cants. This is in ad­di­tion to the 54 434 ad­mit­ted for first-year stud­ies.

It had re­ceived more than 540 000 ap­pli­ca­tions, the ma­jor­ity of which were from would-be first years.

Unisa spokesper­son Martin Ramot­shela said the in­sti­tu­tion could no longer ad­mit stu­dents us­ing its own dis­cre­tion.

“This thing of en­rol­ment (lim­i­ta­tion) may have started a year or two ago. We have what we call the en­rol­ment plan­ning pol­icy frame­work, which is the pol­icy po­si­tion of the De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing that says that ev­ery one of the 26 pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties must be sub­jected to a limit in terms of the num­ber of stu­dents that they can take,” Ramot­shela said.

“The one rea­son is that you should not bite more than you can chew. The num­ber of stu­dents you can take must be in pro­por­tion to your ca­pac­ity.

“If you take more than you can han­dle in terms of your staff ca­pac­ity and your re­sources, stu­dents are go­ing to suf­fer,” Ramot­shela said.

The in­sti­tu­tion was lim­ited to 380 000 stu­dents a year. These in­cluded those study­ing for higher cer­tifi­cates, un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate de­grees.

Ramot­shela said Unisa has re­ceived com­plaints from stu­dents who were not re­ceiv­ing proper ser­vice from the in­sti­tu­tion.

“Even if we’re a dis­tance in­sti­tu­tion, we must still teach. Peo­ple have con­tact with their lec­tur­ers through tu­to­ri­als, one-on-ones and chat rooms. Peo­ple must be as­sessed, they must still write ex­ams. If you’re go­ing to carry an in­fi­nite num­ber, you’re not go­ing to ser­vice it ad­e­quately. It’s very risky,” Ramot­shela said.

He would not be drawn to com­ment on whether the in­creased de­mand for en­rol­ment was linked to the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to in­tro­duce cost-free ed­u­ca­tion for those from fam­i­lies whose an­nual in­come was less than R350 000.

“Whether free ed­u­ca­tion has en­cour­aged more peo­ple to want to study, that is a po­lit­i­cal thing,” he said.

“Ad­mis­sions are still gov­erned by this pol­icy frame­work that uni­ver­si­ties are not sup­posed to carry more than they should.

“Re­mem­ber, even the gov­ern­ment’s stance is that they want more peo­ple go­ing to TVET col­leges than uni­ver­si­ties be­cause cer­tain tech­ni­cal skills are re­quired by the econ­omy.”

UNISA’S Parow cam­pus in the Western Cape was closed fol­low­ing protest ac­tion by stu­dents.

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