Students were consulted over fee increases - Wits

2015-10-14 12:24
Students protest at Wits University over fee increases. (Kgothatso Madisa, Twitter)

Students protest at Wits University over fee increases. (Kgothatso Madisa, Twitter)

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Johannesburg - Students were consulted a number of times on fee increases at Wit University, the institution said on Wednesday.

This comes as students staged a protest at the university's entrances on Wednesday morning, stopping students and staff from entering the varsity premises. The entrances have since been reopened.

"Council made the decision last week. We had five meetings about the fee increases specifically with student representatives and they were consulted for five months. It was a council decision and only counsel can overturn it," spokesperson Shirona Patel told News24.

"Some of the admin staff are being prevented from going to their offices but we have made alternative arrangements. The academic programme is continuing as usual."

There had been one disruption at a class, with the university monitoring the situation to see to if there were other incidents.

"People can come on to the campus. We've had almost one altercation but since then students have calmed down. We've had no violence," Patel said.

The varsity undertook to keep students informed of any changes via the Wits homepage, and to send updates via e-mail and SMS.

A march by students has been arranged, starting at noon on West Campus and expected to run to 14:00, likely finishing at Senate House. A memorandum was expected to be handed over to university management.

"We will have to look at what comes through from the student memorandum and take it from there," Patel said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the university's chief financial officer Linda Jarvis said in a statement that since the fee increases were released, her office has been inundated with requests for information regarding why increases were necessary.

Reasons for fee increase

She said some of the key reasons were the increase in the cost of library books, journals and research equipment, making provisions for salary increases for academics to ensure they retain critical talent and the inflation rate.

Jarvis said the subsidy increase from government was expected to come in at around 5%.

"The net effect is that we have to make up our income to cover our expenditure in order to remain sustainable.

"If we do not do so, we put the quality of our academic project at risk."

Following "extensive consultations with the SRC and other university structures", Wits reduced the average 2016 tuition fee from 11% to 10.5%, with the upfront fee increase also reduced to 6% from 10%.

Social media users posted pictures of the protest on Wednesday morning, along with their views on the fee increases, and students gathering for the coming march.

Read more on:    wits university  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  university fees

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