DA Asks Unisa and NSFAS to Clarify Lower Student Intake

DA Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Science & Technology, Chantel King, has today announced that the political party has written to Unisa and NSFAS to further explain why the institution has reduced its 2025 student intake by 20 000.

The University of South Africa (Unisa) is the biggest university in South Africa and one of the biggest in the world. Many of its South African students depend on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pay their tuition and cover other expenses related to higher education.

Recently Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande, told Unisa to reduce its new entrants by 20 000. This, according to the minister, is the same number of students that the university overenrolled in 2020.

In July 2020 Nzimande launched a probe into Unisa to review many aspects of the institution, including mission drift, education quality, failure rates, and more.

Now at the start of the first semester of 2025, King and the DA have questioned this decision.

“This decision will be a major blow for first-year students who pinned their hopes on UNISA and NSFAS to kickstart their academic careers. Many of these students planned their academic year based on their initial acceptance letters from UNISA and should not be at the short end of the stick due to the university’s transgressions,” King writes in a press release.

King and the DA have written to Unisa and NSFAS asking for clarification on the following points:

  • “How did UNISA’s administration manage to enroll over and above the enrollment limit for NSFAS students?
  • Even though UNISA over-enrolled NSFAS applications above the limited capacity, how and why did NSFAS approve these students?
  • Once NSFAS has reached its maximum capacity in terms of applications, how does the institution ensure that no more applications are accepted?
  • Whether all other potential solutions have been exhausted to prevent students from being excluding them from the education system?
  • What measures have the two institutions put in place to ensure that this error does not happen again?”

Unisa has, historically, struggled to keep up with the number of students it takes on board. Its communication with students through calls and emails, for example, has been lackluster in recent years. It’s not uncommon for calls and emails to go unanswered indefinitely, or for replies to come months later.

This is a topic we broached with Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor last year in our interview leading up to the university’s first online exams. Just this week Unisa announced extended ours for its call centres and general bolstering of its Student Communication Service Centre.

Whether these changes will make an impact, or if the DA receives a meaningful reply from either institution, remains to be seen.

“This over-enrollment is clearly the result of poor planning and coordination on the part of NSFAS and UNISA and thousands of students’ academic futures now hang in the balance. They should not be punished for poor administration on the part of these institutions,” King concludes.


Overview of Public Universities in South Africa

Here's an overview of some public universities in South Africa, including general admissions requirements and estimated application periods. Keep in mind, specific program requirements and dates can vary significantly, so it's important to check each university's official website for the most current information.

University of Pretoria

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with minimum scores in specific subjects related to the chosen program; for international students, equivalent qualifications.
  • Application Period: Usually opens in March and closes at the end of July for most programs.

University of Cape Town

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with pass levels required for degree study; subject-specific requirements depending on the program.
  • Application Period: Application opens in April and closes at the end of July.

Stellenbosch University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required marks; some programs have additional testing.
  • Application Period: Opens in March and typically closes at the end of June.

University of the Witwatersrand

  • Admissions Requirements: Matriculation certificate with university exemption; required scores vary by faculty.
  • Application Period: Begins in March and ends on the 30th of September.

University of Johannesburg

  • Admissions Requirements: Matric exemption with a minimum APS score; specific subject requirements based on the faculty.
  • Application Period: Opens in April and generally closes by the 30th of September.

University of the Free State

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific marks for the program applied to; additional requirements for certain courses.
  • Application Period: Typically opens in April and closes at the end of August.

University of Venda

  • Admissions Requirements: Completion of the National Senior Certificate with an endorsement for diploma or degree studies; specific APS scores needed.
  • Application Period: Usually from May to September.

University of Fort Hare

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with university exemption; certain programs may have specific requirements.
  • Application Period: Opens around May and closes at the end of September.

University of the Western Cape

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific performance levels; additional requirements for certain programs.
  • Application Period: Generally from May to September.

North-West University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with university exemption; program-specific requirements may apply.
  • Application Period: Opens in March and usually closes by the end of August.

Rhodes University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate or equivalent; minimum academic performance in certain subjects.
  • Application Period: Applications open in April and close at the end of September.

Nelson Mandela University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required scores for chosen programs; portfolio or additional tests for some faculties.
  • Application Period: Opens in April, with a deadline at the end of August for most programs.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific scores; additional requirements for certain courses.
  • Application Period: Opens in May and typically closes by the end of September.

University of Limpopo

  • Admissions Requirements: Senior Certificate with endorsement for diploma or degree courses; specific APS scores for different programs.
  • Application Period: From April to September.

University of Zululand

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with an endorsement for bachelor’s degree studies; specific score requirements for various programs.
  • Application Period: Usually between April and November.

Central University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific scores for the chosen field of study; additional criteria for certain programs.
  • Application Period: Application period generally starts in May and ends in October.

Vaal University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with a pass that qualifies for admission to bachelor’s degree, diploma, or higher certificate programs.
  • Application Period: Typically from May to September.

Walter Sisulu University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required scores for chosen programs; additional criteria for certain faculties.
  • Application Period: From April to September.

This list provides a starting point for understanding the admissions landscape across South Africa's diverse higher education institutions. Given the variability in programs and requirements, it's crucial to consult each university's website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.