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Response from the Senior Executive Team on protests

- Wits University

The Senior Executive Team met on Sunday, 05 March 2023 to consider the demands put forward by the SRC.

Following extensive engagements with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) on Saturday, the Senior Executive Team met on Sunday, 05 March 2023 to consider the demands put forward by the SRC. The SET noted the commitment from both parties to resolve the impasse but is concerned that new demands were added to the list originally submitted by the SRC, and following the further concessions made on Thursday, 02 March 2023.

The demands from the SRC and SET’s responses thereto, follows below:

1. Demand: All students who were registered in 2022 and are academically eligible to return to Wits should be allowed to register (including part-time and occasional students).

RESPONSE: This demand has been amended from the original demand that all students owing up to R150 000 be allowed to register. Given resource constraints, the University is not able to allow all students across all programmes, whether full-time, part-time or occasional, to register without them meeting the re-registration requirements. The University will however on a case-by[1]case basis, for 2023 only and based on resource availability, consider the requests for registration assistance from unregistered students with a PCD (PROCEED with no conditions attached) outcome only. This will further only be applicable to students seeking to register for the programme that they were registered in for the 2022 academic year, and not for registration towards new programmes, part-time and/or occasional studies. The University will endeavour to seek external donor funds for this once-off concession, to assist academically excellent students. The University will accordingly allow the late registration of students who fall into this cohort of students only.

2.  Demand: Wits University must absorb the approximate R86 million accommodation budget shortfall created as a result of NSFAS capping on-campus accommodation at R45 000 per annum.

RESPONSE: The University agrees to establish a working group with the SRC for the purpose of working on a response to the accommodation funding crisis created as a result of the NSFAS cap. This working group will also jointly engage NSFAS and all other relevant parties on seeking solutions to this crisis, as Wits University is not able to absorb this shortfall because it would compromise the financial sustainability of the institution.

3.  Demand: NSFAS-funded students in off-campus accommodation should not be required to pay a deposit, should not pay top-ups, and all accredited buildings must make provision for NSFAS-funded students at the NSFAS rates.

RESPONSE: The Wits private accommodation accreditation policy requires private providers to provide NSFAS students with accommodation at the NSFAS rate of R45 000 per annum. Therefore, no deposits are required to access this accommodation. The University agrees to work with the SRC on reviewing the Accreditation Policy.

4. Amended demand: An additional 1 000 beds must be added to the current 500 hardship accommodation beds provision.

RESPONSE: The SRC agreed in its meeting with the Dean of Student Affairs held on Wednesday, 01 March 2023, that an additional 150 beds (thus taking the overall allocation to 500 beds) would be sufficient in meeting the current demand. The University is currently in the process of fast[1]tracking the procurement of these additional 150 beds. The University cannot commit to securing an additional 1 000 beds given the financial resource constraints. HOWEVER, the University undertakes to continue its efforts, as it has done before, to secure private sector or donor funding to enable it to assist as many students as possible. The outcome of such efforts will be communicated in due course.

5. New demand: All students who have met the academic requirements of their programmes but who are blocked from graduating due to outstanding fees must be allowed to graduate, irrespective of the outstanding debt amount.

RESPONSE: The University notes that this is a new demand. The University agrees to a joint working group with the SRC to review the legislative and policy framework applicable to graduations, and to make such proposals and/or recommendations to the University (and other bodies or governance structures) as may be appropriate.

6.  Demand: The R10 000 deposit required to access a Wits residence must be waived. This waiver should be available to all students.

RESPONSE: The University agrees that qualifying students, with active residence offers, may apply for this waiver through the WCCO. The Wits Hardship Fund’s rules for accommodation as well as prevailing rules will be applicable. The student will be liable for this fee as part of their overall residence costs for the year. This agreement includes students who have been waitlisted. Additional capacity will be deployed to the WCCO to ensure that this is done as speedily as possible, including setting up an electronic or online platform to enable the application process.

7. New demand: All students must be provided with data to help mitigate against the impact of loadshedding and taking the socio-economic circumstances of students into account.

RESPONSE: The University is concerned that this demand seeks to provide all students with data support, irrespective of need. The university notes that Wi-Fi is freely available on campus and in the student residences, however, agrees to make data available to students, on a needs only basis. An online platform will be developed for this purpose and with the aim to activate this support effective from 01 April 2023.

8.  Demand: Academic recovery or catch-up plans must be put in place for all students who registered late.

RESPONSE: All faculties, schools and departments will be requested to ensure that academic recovery or catch-up programmes and processes are in place for students who have registered late and where classes were disrupted.

9. Demand: All suspensions must be withdrawn, the legal action through ENS must be withdrawn, and campus must be “demilitarized” through the presence of private security and the police immediately.

RESPONSE: Those who were suspended were given an opportunity to make representations to the Senior DVC prior to Suspension Orders having been issued. They did not however take up this opportunity. Having said this and without prejudice to any of the University’s rights, the Legal Office has indicated that students can be provided with a second opportunity, (which we hope they will now take up) to make representations to the Senior DVC in the first instance and if need be thereafter, to the VC in line with University’s processes to hear their representations, keeping in mind the nature, seriousness, and severity of the conduct in question, the apprehension of harm and any other relevant factor. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The ENS letter is not legal action against SRC, but a demand to the SRC to de-escalate and call on all students to desist from any disruption of classes or access to campus, intimidation of members of the University community, and damage of property, failing which the University reserved its rights to address such conduct through the relevant legal processes. The next step in this regard is dependent on SRC action going forward. The university agrees to immediately de-escalate in acknowledgement of the progress made. This includes the university management reducing the number of private security guards, on the proviso that there are no further disruptions to the academic project or the activities of the university, no intimidation of students or staff, and damage to property.

For the initial additional concessions granted by the University in early February 2023, read: Response to the SRC Memorandum of Concessions - 2 February 2023.

10. Previous demand: International students should pay 40% of their fees upfront, as opposed to the 75% current requirement.

RESPONSE: The University agreed to lower the upfront fee payable by international students to 50% for returning international students, provided that they have cleared all their historic debt.

11. Previous demand: Hardship applications for students previously assisted by the Wits Hardship Fund.

RESPONSE: The University agreed that students previously assisted by the Wits Hardship Fund (which is meant to be a once-off form of assistance) may apply for further assistance through the special considerations provision. The students’ academic record and historic payment record will be taken into account.

12. Previous demand: Earlier release of hardship accommodation beds in support of medical students

RESPONSE: Fifty hardship accommodation beds were procured to ensure appropriate support to qualifying medical students.

13. Previous demand: Hardship Criteria should be broader for postgraduate students

RESPONSE: The Wits Hardship Fund criteria were carefully crafted and allowed for inputs from the SRC during the process. Whilst emphasis is placed on assisting students seeking a first qualification, postgraduate students who meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply for assistance which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The University requests that the SRC makes specific proposals in respect of broadening the criteria for postgraduate students. (No proposals have been received from the SRC to date).


Subject to available resources and keeping in mind the long-term sustainability of the University, the University remains committed to working with the SRC on resolving these matters, and to exploring ways of finding permanent solutions to these issues. The University however notes that many of these are sectoral issues which will require sectoral-level interventions.

Senior Executive Team

5 March 2023