Last week, students at the University of Pretoria (UP) staged a university shutdown in protest against the institution’s planned registration fee increases for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the 2023/2024 academic years.
The protest action followed after the institution announced that registration fees for South African undergraduate students will go up from R5,000 this year to R7,500 in 2023 and R10 000 in 2024 and international students study fees will increase to R40 000 in 2023.
In an interview, University of Pretoria Student Representative Council (SRC) President Thuto Mashila explained that in response to the protest action against the increase in registration fees, the university has suspended seven members of the SRC.
She adds that these members are not allowed on the university premises and have been given a notice to vacate the university campus residences as well.
At the mass meeting that was held last week, they collectively decided with the students that they will be conducting a university shutdown, and demonstrations were to be done in the from of peaceful protests.
As the SRC we have engaged with university management through meetings, emails and we’ve even submitted suggestions and proposals, but the executives of the institution have decided to maintain their stance of keeping the registration fee increase at the decided rates.
Thuto says that the SRC suggested to the university that a 10% increase on registration fees was substantial.
According to the university, the proposed increases have been misunderstood and protests are being conducted based on incorrect assumptions, as not all students will be affected by the increase.
The university says that students that are funded by the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and other external funding are not required to make the first payment.
The SRC says that although the university has financial support measures in place to assist students, there are numerous students that the university neglected to take into consideration when making the increase.
Around 20% of UP students are Nsfas-funded and the problem with Nsfas is that they take time to confirm funding. Registration takes place in February and Nsfas only starts their process to confirm funding in March, says Mashila.
A hearing was held with the suspended SRC members and the university management agreed that they will go back to the drawing board with the SRC to negotiate and hopefully reach some sort of compromise in terms of the percentage of the increase on registration fees.
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