Department may centralise applications after stampede

2012-01-10 14:05

Hopeful university students may have to apply directly to the Department of Higher Education for admission to one of South Africa’s universities.

Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, told journalists in Johannesburg that the department “would certainly be moving towards a system of central applications”, in an effort to address the large number of applicants to universities.

Nzimande said the department hoped to have this system in place for admissions for the 2013 academic year.

This came after a massive crowd of prospective students and parents this morning caused a stampede at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Road campus in Auckland Park, in which the mother of a hopeful student was killed and approximately 17 people were injured.

Nzimande said the department would consider not allowing walk-ins (those who arrive at the university without previously having applied) and would consider revising systems of dealing with late admissions.

Asked what a central admissions policy would encompass, Nzimande said students would apply directly to the department, indicating their first, second and third preferences.

The department would then process these applications send them to the university for admission, before receiving a response and notifying prospective students, in an attempt at preventing incidents such as the one at UJ.

Professor Ihron Rensburg, vice-chancellor of the university, said the stampede this morning was caused by a crowd waiting at the university’s closed gate at about 7.30am.

He said “unruly” members of the crowd began jumping over palisade fences which caused an increased push from the back of the line towards the front of the 3km-long queue.

“We saw that unless we opened those gates, there would be a significant crush onto the gate.”

He said all the injuries were sustained in the rush that followed the opening of the gates.

Rensburg said the university saw such a large number of applicants every year because it was the only consolidated university in Gauteng, offering both diploma and degree courses.

He said the admissions process at UJ was hampered by the fact that school-leavers were not properly counselled before applying to university.

“I would guess that 80% of the between 30 000 and 40 000 at the university gates come in with a results statement and say: ‘Help me’.”

Nzimande said problems relating to late admissions were being experienced throughout South Africa and that the “university system cannot respond to all of those who want to go to university”.

Nzimande said there was a perception among school leavers that “to make it in life, you must access university”, which he said was not the case.

There are 50 000 places available at Further Education and Training Colleges this year and Nzimande urged parents and prospective students to explore these possibilities.

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