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  • A parliamentary question has revealed that, since 2010, at least 120,000 students have passed their courses, but are yet to receive their degrees and transcripts due to outstanding fees.
  • Some universities will provide prospective employers with transcripts.
  • As students protest to have their historical debt written off, universities face a growing financial crisis.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Since 2010, more than 120,000 South African students who have passed their courses, but couldn't afford to settle their final fee payments, are yet to receive their degrees and transcripts.

This was revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question to minister of higher education, science and innovation Blade Nzimande.

At a single tertiary institution - Walter Sisulu University, which has some 27,000 students – more than 20,000 students have not yet received their degrees since 2010. Together, they owe R526 million. 

Here's the situation at other universities:

University of KwaZulu-Natal: 17,840 students have not received degree certificates due to unpaid fees. Together, they owe R868 million in unpaid fees.

Central University of Technology: 12,985 students, owing R1.8 billion

Tshwane University of Technology: 11,255 students, owing R4.4 billion

University of Limpopo: 10,345 students, owing R343 million

University of Johannesburg: 7,722 students, owing R538 million

University of Fort Hare: 5,922 students, owing R286 million

University of Zululand: 5,450 students R83 milllion

Durban University of Technology: 5,155 students, owing R99 million.

University of the Free State: 4,023 students, owing R65 million

Mangosuthu University of Technology: 3,870 students, owing R75 million.

University of the Witwatersrand: 3,426 students, owing R224 million

Vaal University of Technology: 3,402 students, owing R119 million

University of Venda: 1,405 students, owing R43 million

University of Pretoria: 1,092 students, owing R35 million

Nelson Mandela University: 820 students, owing R63 million.

North-West University: 766 students, owing R19 million

Stellenbosch University: 568 students, owing R19 million

Rhodes University: 378 students, owing R15 million

University of Cape Town: 325 students, owing R14 million

Some of the biggest universities in the country – including the University of the Western Cape and Unisa – have not provided information about how many students have not received their degrees.

There are differences in the approach between universities when it comes to dealing with graduates with unpaid fee debt.

For example, the University of Pretoria will provide official transcripts to potential employers “so as not to prevent the gainful employment” of graduates who can’t afford to settle their fees. Also, almost 1,600 students with outstanding fees have entered into payment plans with the university. The University of the Free State and UCT will also send academic transcripts to employers, on request.

Stellenbosch University will also send transcripts to employers – provided students have entered into payment plans.

The University of Zululand will give students a letter confirming that they have graduated, but due to outstanding fees their certificates have not been issued.

Earlier this month, students at universities across South Africa protested after being unable to register for the 2021 academic year due to unpaid fees.

Due in part to these unpaid fees, universities now have a collective debt burden approaching R14 billion, according to the tertiary education body Universities SA.  Treasury refuses to provide money to fund this shortfall, while students are pushing to stop financial exclusion and to have their historical debt written off - leaving universities with a growing financial crisis.

READ | Student protests: The fight for free education

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