Students from the University of Western Cape (UWC) say they are having issues with the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). They have been informed that they won’t be funded for the 2021 year and are running out of options. The students want answers from the university and the department.
A student told The Daily Vox their problems started when the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) deregistered them. However, the student said the university failed to inform students timeously. The students started the 2021 academic year under the impression that they would be funded. Students registered for the year but later found out they would not be funded. Students have submitted a memorandum of demands to the university asking for assistance. The student said they are hoping the university will be able to fund them because they are only a group of around 200 PGCE students who require funding.
Another student told The Daily Vox that NSFAS reportedly told the university about the defunding but the university did not inform students. A number of the students were previously funded by NSFAS for their undergraduate studies. The students were told to apply for the Funza Lushaka bursary for education students but they were rejected. “They are basically disregarding our situation where we need funding,” said the student.
“The Funza Lushaka bursary is a prestigious bursary that must be awarded firstly on the basis of academic ability.”
Applicants are required to study certain priority areas, such as mathematics and physical science, in order to qualify for the bursary, according to the Funza Lushaka bursary website.
In their own words: NSFAS N+2 students speak out
This is not an issue only affecting students at UWC. Students from Stellenbosch University, amongst others, have also been left scrambling for alternatives. The University of Cape Town said they had secured funding to assist some students. However, registered PGCE students who applied to NSFAS for the first time in 2021 are not able to be assisted at present. The university said they will continue to try to source sponsorship for these programmes.
UWC said they cannot comment on the position and decisions of NSFAS. The university said the PGCE issue will form part of ongoing discussions with NSFAS. According to UWC, they will provide assistance to the extent that it can. “The university is grateful to University South Africa (USAF) for providing bursaries for BEd and PGCE students for the 2021 academic year,” it said. There will also be a call for new applications for Honours student funding for the 2021 academic year.
Sibongile Mncwabe, NSFAS Chief Corporate Services Officer, said the funding of programmes is a policy decision from the department of higher education and training (DHET). Mncwabe said NSFAS only provides financial support for the approved qualifications stated in the policy guidelines. According to the 2021 DHET Bursary Rules and Guidelines, NSFAS does not provide funding for PGCE in 2021.
According to the guidelines, approved funded programmes at universities are all undergraduate whole qualifications offered by a public university. Postgraduate qualifications, including post graduate certificates, postgraduate diplomas, honours degrees, masters and PhD degrees are not funded, except in the case of continuing academically eligible students from 2020 completing their qualifications.
Mncwabe said NSFAS will no longer be funding the programme for first-time entrant students. However, students who are already enrolled in this programme will be allowed to complete the qualification. According to NSFAS, in 2020 there were 4047 students doing their PGCE.
NSFAS has made payments to all institutions whose registration data has been received. The funding scheme will communicate when the 2022 application cycle commences.
A petition has been started to get NSFAS to fund PGCE students.