Collaborations with private sector required to address the student funding gap, says UJ’s Prof Mpedi

The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi gave a keynote address at the Fundi and Mail and Guardian Student Funding webinar that took place on Thursday February 23, 2023.

The webinar aimed to discuss the funding issues faced by students and what can be done to help fix the challenges.

Prof Mpedi emphasised the need to focus on three sector wide considerations, namely:

  1. Partnership collaborations with the private sector that are required in order to address student funding shortfall;
  2. A strategy in managing student funding with the support of government
  3. A focus on raising funds to assist the students who completed their studies and are due to graduate but have outstanding debt.

“If we have any hope of funding access to education, these are some of the challenges we have to address with urgency. While UJ has done a lot in this space, more is required and wider interventions need to be considered.”

In December 2022 UJ launched the Double Our Future Impact campaign which aims to assist as many as 10 000 students in 2023. So far close to R3 million in donations has been raised.

Prof Mpedi also spoke about the need for the culture of giving.

“It’s not only companies that must give but also, as individuals, we should contribute to the best of our abilities to support our students.”

The challenges of student funding remain

The Vice Chancellor reflected on the 2015 Fees Must Fall protests saying that 8 years on and still the challenges persisted.

“South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. This is a title we have held for a number of years according to the World Bank. These inequalities manifest themselves in a multitude of ways and in the higher education sector the divisions are stark. There are divisions with those who have access to institutions and those who do not. There are the divisions within institutions of those who are state funded, those who are self-funded and those who make up the missing middle.”

Prof Mpedi added that the Fees Must Fall protests demonstrated the burden higher education places on families.

“Although there are interventions such as scholarships, funding through NSFAS and UJ’s Missing Middle Fund, there are many who fall through the cracks. Higher education, indeed, is still in crisis and despite a marked increase in the numbers of students in recent years, there has not been a concomitant increase in funding allocated to the sector.”

Watch the keynote address here.

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