Govt rethinks tertiary registration

Johannesburg, 12 Jan 2012
Read time 2min 40sec

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande has resolved to fast-track a centralised registration system for tertiary education applications, following a stampede at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) that left the mother of a prospective student dead.

However, moving to an exclusively online registration system has been ruled out, based on SA's limited Internet penetration.

The stampede, says UJ vice-chancellor and principal, professor Ihron Rensburg, happened as thousands of students queued at the university's Auckland Park Bunting Road campus for eleventh-hour applications on Tuesday.

Forty-eight-year-old Gloria Sekwena, who accompanied her son for a late application, was crushed to death in a stampede by thousands of university hopefuls, while 22 others were injured, two of whom are in a critical condition.

Nzimande's spokesperson, Vuyelwa Qinga, says the tragedy has prompted the minister to fast-track the implementation of a process that has been on the cards since last year. “The minister wants to propose a centralised administration system that will be implemented as of the next academic year. The main goal is to completely do away with long queues and walk-ins at universities,” says Qinga.

She says that, while exact details as to what the system will entail are not yet clear, the minister will network with IT and education professionals in order to come up with a solution. “An investigation is under way to ensure that this process goes ahead as soon as possible, especially now that a life has been lost,” says Qinga.

It has not been established whether the system will involve an online registration process, but Qinga says the use of the Internet for across the board registrations is not viable, given the demographics of potential students. “There are many who need education that do not have access to the Internet. There is a large number of students that live in rural areas and townships.”

The university's registrar, professor Marie Muller, says the university will review its registration process, including the online student portal that has been in operation for two years now. “However, manual registrations cannot be done away with, considering the population of students applying to UJ and a lack of Internet access.”

According to a 2011 report by Internet World Stats, as at March 2011, SA's Internet penetration was at 13.9%.

Muller says the university opened for late applications for 2012 study on Monday and had received approximately 7 000 walk-ins. “[UJ] received close to 85 000 applications before the application deadline in 2011. The university's pre-selection is based on Grade 11 results and UJ conditionally admitted 17 500 applicants for first-year undergraduate studies subject to their final results and subject to space availability in the particular programme.”

Qinga says the proposed system will handle all of SA's university applications. Further details, she says, will become available at a later stage.

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