No widespread chaos at university registrations

Fears of widespread chaos during the start of registration at some tertiary institutions around the country last week largely failed to materialise in the wake of the president’s recent announcement about fee-free higher education, and a call by a political party for all eligible students to simply turn up at institutions of their choice as walk-in applications.

The Economic Freedom Front, led by Julius Malema, said it would deploy its members to universities to force them to accept more students‚ despite applications having closed last year, and following President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of free university education for the working class at the start of the ANC’s elective conference on 16 December.

After initially announcing on 1 January that universities would not allow walk-in applications – the death of an applicant’s parent in a stampede at the University of Johannesburg in 2012 still lingers in the minds of sectors’ administrators – Universities South Africa, or USAf, agreed last week to a more ‘flexible approach’ to the management of walk-in applicants.

USAf, which represents South Africa’s 26 public universities, said this was in response to the ‘orderly manner’ in which registration had progressed during the week.

“In light of the broadly positive feedback [from universities] received about the orderly manner in which registrations were progressing, it was decided that a more flexible approach would be adopted to address the question of walk-ins so as to ensure a successful registration period,” the statement said.

USAf said universities that still had vacancies would process relevant walk-in applications, while those without places would provide help to walk-in students to access the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Central Application Clearing House (CACH) system, which provides students with access to vacant academic seats across the university and technical and vocational education and training, or TVET, college sectors.

“To the extent possible, each university will provide information on academic programmes that can still accept new students.”

According to USAf, the country’s institutions are expecting to enrol about 208,000 first-year students.

Meanwhile, six students were injured on Thursday following a stampede during registration at the Capricorn TVET college in Polokwane, Limpopo province. A further two students were struck by a vehicle.

The incident has predictably led to accusations of blame against the EFF by the opposition Democratic Alliance.