An agreement was reached at UWC late last night after a seven hour meeting between Rector Tyrone Pretorius, the Students' Representative Council (SRC) and #FeesMustFall. The agreement includes the university’s commitments on a range of issues including free education, outstanding debt, registration fees and outsourcing.
After the agreement was signed, Pretorius, the SRC and #FeesMustFall representatives addressed students at about 11pm in the Student Centre. Pretorius told the students that this “was not the time for finger pointing” and that the university was a family. “You are my students, it might have appeared that you were no longer my family but tomorrow when the sun rises, you will still be my students and my family,” said Pretorius. He said that he was committed to “affordable and accessible free education for all”. The rector then attempted to hand over to the SRC President Akhona Landu to read out the agreement, but students loudly rejected this. The agreement was then read out by #FeesMustFall spokesperson Kaizer Festile.
Key IssuesSome of the key issues on the agreement are those relating to free education, registration fees, outstanding debt, the Kovacs private residence and outsourcing. A task team is to be appointed including representatives from UWC management, the SRC, #FeesMustFall, the Finance Department and a representative of the Registration Committee. By 6 November, the task team will define what “financially needy” means. Here are some of the key points of the agreement:
- Free education: UWC and its rector “support the call for free education and remain committed to campaign government for support to realise this”.
- Registration fees: Financially needy students, bursary holders and NSFAS recipients “will not pay registration or upfront fees and will not be financially excluded”.
- Outstanding debt: The agreement says that this cannot be addressed immediately but within two weeks the task team needs to “identify strategies to fund the scrapping of student debt”. The agreement also addresses the issue of graduating with outstanding debt. It says that “students with debt will receive a letter indicating that a student has completed the academic requirements of a specific degree and that the degree certificate will be issued once the student has settled their outstanding debt. Such students will also sign an agreement that once they find employment they will negotiate with the university the terms of starting to settle their debt”.
- Kovacs: This is the private residence on campus that costs about R40,000 a year to stay at. The agreement says that the “rector will meet with Kovacs about issues raised such as fencing, laundry, wifi, fines, fee increases and others”. It also says that the SRC and #FeesMustFall will nominate representatives to participate in these meetings and that the university will continue engagements with the Department of Higher Education and Training about the acquisition of Kovacs. It says “there are different options to be considered [to buy them out or go into partnership]”.
- Outsourcing: The agreement says that the university's management indicated that “they share the moral obligation around the issue of outsourcing” and that insourcing will be considered “with a firm commitment to pursue implementation after a feasibility study has been done”.