The number of black South African students receiving loans will treble to 70,000 this year following a three-month government fund-raising drive which netted more than Pounds 35 million (Rand 210m).
It is hoped that the new money will relieve the ongoing student debt crisis at universities and technikons until a national student loan scheme is established next year and will defuse the protests and disruptions that mark the beginning of each academic year.
However, the emergency fund will not help all needy students - around 35,000 students will still need loans. And the maximum amount to be loaned will not fully cover fees for all courses or residence costs.
It appears unlikely at present that institutions will be able to recoup all of the millions still owed them for previous years, since the new money will be used for the 1995 academic year at the insistence of donors.
Education minister Sibusiso Bengu said last week that the Pounds 35 million raised would be given out as loans up to a maximum of Pounds 1,500 per student. Students will be able to convert up to 40 per cent of their loan into a grant if they pass.
The largest proportion of the money raised - Pounds 22.7 million - was released by the government from various departments, with the remainder coming from foreign and local donors.
It is estimated that nearly Pounds 100 million a year for several years will be needed to initiate a national loan scheme. The new National Commission on Higher Education will decide the details of the scheme in time to have it in place for the 1996 academic year.
On February 24 The THES will be publishing a special supplement on South African higher education and the transformation process.