Academic progression criteria for continuing university students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) will increase from 55% to 60% over time.
This was announced by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande during a briefing on the state of readiness of the post-school education and training sector for this academic year.
Nzimande said as of this academic year, first-time students must achieve a course credit pass rate of 50% and continuing university students must achieve a progressive course credit pass rate of 55%. He said that all returning university students should meet the ongoing academic eligibility requirements to remain funded by Nsfas.
He said as of Friday the scheme had received more than 1.1 million applications, with 156 700 of the applicants already beneficiaries of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).
He also mentioned that an inflation-linked increase of 5% on allowances had been effected for universities and TVET colleges on student allowances.
"The accommodation allowance has increased by 7% and was capped at R45 000 per student per annum. This year, a living allowance of R6 000 per annum, distributed monthly, will be introduced for the first time for our TVET college students," he said.
Nzimande said they were also removing the 40km distance control for TVET college students and replacing it with a more equitable 10km radius, which will also apply to universities.
"Nsfas will make upfront payments to institutions to cover costs related to registration, tuition and living allowances. This means that Nsafas-funded students will be registered by all the institutions without paying an upfront fee,” he said.
Those who have not applied for Nsfas funding have until end of the month to do so, the minister said. Registration for this academic year commenced on January 16 and will close on February 20.
Nzimande said the overall public university enrolment was projected to be more than 1.1 million.
He reported there being a shortage of more than 400 000 beds at public institution student accommodation centres, with rural universities and TVET colleges being the most affected.
"The shortage exposes students to immense vulnerabilities, such as serious crimes and gender-based violence. Some students stay in facilities that are unconducive to performance in their academic work.
To address this challenge, the department and Nsfas will employ the allocated budget for infrastructure and student accommodation to partner with investors and property developers to stimulate the rapid construction of university residences in a manner that will enable the state to eventually own and control these assets," he said.
Nzimande also mentioned that student debt sat at about R16.5 billion, adding that the R1.5 billion per annum cost of debt could be directed towards infrastructure development and the academic system.