As at the end of 2021, student debt at the University of Namibia stood at a massive N$400 million, while the Namibia University of Science and Technology has recorded an amount of N$80 million in outstanding fees.
As students are about to register at different universities, both Unam and Nust have openly stated that no student debt will be carried over to the 2022 academic year.
Late registration, as a result of Grades 11 and 12 stolen examination papers, prompted the universities to also change their dates.
In the past, both universities had allowed students with outstanding balances on their accounts to register for the opening of an academic year.
Senior Unam students started to register from 13 January to 4 February, and from 14 February to 18 February for first-years.
Late registration for first-year students is planned from 28 February to 4 March this year. In an interview, Unam spokesperson John Haufiku explained that these dates were arrived at with due consideration of all delayed results, and any students with outstanding marks during normal registration will be assisted during late registration. He said additional fees may not apply.
“Students with outstanding balances will need to first settle before being able to register. As at the end of last year, the student debt stood at N$400 million,” Haufiku stated.
Meanwhile, Nust spokesperson Kaitira Kandjii said the university has historically come to the aid of students with outstanding debts and those facing financial challenges to ensure that they are able to register and continue with their studies.
“The current position of the university is that outstanding debts should be settled prior to registration for the current academic year. This is and has historically been the practice at Nust. Students currently owed Nust a whopping N$80 million, and this amount is due primarily from students who are not beneficiaries of any kind of scholarship or grant,” he revealed.
He said Nust management, in consultation with the university’s council, will analyse the debt and its impact on the cash flow of the university prior to making any decision regarding the granting of reprieves to students.
Kandjii reiterated that the collection of outstanding fees is essential to ensuring that the university remains operational.
As such, there is a need for a balanced approach with respect to such reprieves or negotiations.
Nust’s senior students started registration from 17 January to 11 February 2022.
For new students, registration ran from 1 to 11 February, while late registration will be from 14 to 18 February 2022.
Special registration is from 1 to 11 March 2022. This is subject to the release of secondary education results. Special registration for students affected by the delayed release of Grade 11 NSSCO (new) and Grade 12 NSSCO (legacy) is faculty-specific.
Unam said it is exploring various strategies to improve its financial position.
One is to raise money through research, development and innovation.
Haufiku said Unam has the largest brainpower in the country, and is well-suited to win research grants that can fund most of its research activities, and academics who drive this.
“It also means capable labs that can be used to render services to industry and the government. A good example are the testing and analysis capacity of various laboratories at Unam that have traditionally only been used for teaching,” he added.
Another strategy is the commercialisation of the university’s assets through a Unam-owned company called Inceptus.
Unam intends to leverage its human and physical resources to aid funding. One example Haufiku highlighted is amplifying produce at Unam farms for market competition.
“One other strategy being explored is utilising the university’s large alumni network to assist with sustainability efforts. This is the global standard for higher education funding, and Unam is catching on,” he noted.
On accommodation, Unam can only accommodate a small fraction of its student population in the hostels.
Capacity increases have been limited by a lack of funding for capital projects. However, Haufiku maintained that public-private partnerships (PPP) have since started to aid in the university’s efforts in this regard.
Furthermore, the university will now have a blended approach, which is a mix between face-to-face and online learning.
The degree to which this will take place will differ between first-year students and senior students.