The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has removed 2 000 "professional students", those who have taken more than eight years to complete three-year degrees.
This is part of the university leadership's bid to root out the "destructive culture of those who want to drain the university's resources with impunity", the institution said in a statement on Thursday.
UKZN warned protesting students that they would be dealt with, as yet more buildings on the university were torched on Wednesday night. This time, it was at the Edgewood campus. This follows buildings torched at the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses in February.
The university said those "professional students" were not paying fees and was "routinely holding the institution to ransom through unrest for personal concessions".
Management said the torching of the buildings at Edgewood took place after weeks of "careful and honest negotiations" between management and the student leadership.
Students and management have been deadlocked for various reasons, in particular the university's policy that students must pay some historic debt before registering. The university, however, said the number of students who would actually need to pay large amounts of debt was low.
The university's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nana Poku, condemned the violence.
Poku said on Thursday: "We recognise that this cowardly attack on the infrastructure of the university is intended to intimidate us - to make us lose our resolve and to deflect us from initiating sweeping reforms that will ensure the institution's sustainability, and heighten its national and international standing."
"We will continue the vital work of ensuring that the life of the university, the safety of our students and staff, and the quality of the work we do together continues to go from strength to strength.
"Craven cowardice will continue to be met with forthright honesty and renewed determination to serve all members of the UKZN community," Poku said.