Unisa Defends Itself From "Nightmare" Online Registration Claims


Unisa has recently faced some scrutiny from students regarding the alleged lack of communication and assistance when it comes to registering online. The institution has come out and disputed these claims. 



The University of South Africa (Unisa) has disputed recent claims made by online publication, the Daily Maverick, who has alleged that online registration is a something of a "nightmare" for students at the institution. 

The publication recently wrote an article that placed Unisa in the spotlight, but not in a good way. The article, published on 14 February 2023, claims that the institution is incredibly unhelpful when it comes to students attempting to register online. 

The headline reads "Trying to register with Unisa is a ‘nightmare’, say many students", and goes on to include three different accounts from three different students enrolled at the university. 

The students all tell a story about how they have been battling to register, as well as simply get in contact with the university, and how they have all been left without proper support. 

Unisa was quick to respond to the allegations made by the Daily Maverick, providing lengthy explanations. 

In a statement released on 22 February 2023, Unisa acknowledged the article, noting with "dismay" that the Daily Maverick's headline suggests a persistent problem the institution has been dealing with, but is ultimately misleading because only three examples were brought forward.

Unisa's response essentially wants to clear the air, particularly for its stakeholders.

"It is the considered view of the university that our stakeholders deserve to know the correct and informed perspective on the issues raised in the article, including a clear explanation of the university admissions processes," says Unisa in the statement. 

"As a point of departure, Unisa wishes to reaffirm its stance that our students are the most important stakeholders in the university and are at the centre of our mandate. ALL concerns and enquiries raised by our students are regarded as critical and worthy of immediate attention."

Boitumelo Molete, a postgraduate Sociology Honours student at Unisa, interviewed by the Daily Maverick, only got a response from the institution after taking it to Twitter, despite sending multiple emails and calling multiple times.

The student completed her registration on the day that it opened, believing it to be successful, due to the fact that her fees were paid and Unisa gave confirmation of having received payment. However, her proof of registration never arrived. 

“I waited for my proof of registration, which didn’t come through. This frustrated me because I’d already selected the modules that I would be doing this year," explained the Molete.

She then tried numerous times to connect to the institution via email and telephone, but with no response. Only a few days later after checking again did Molete notice that her fees had been wrongfully been allocated to a matric exemption fund. 

This was when she decided to go to Twitter. 

"After I tried to contact them several times, they finally got back to me after I posted a tweet. So I guess Twitter has a thing of getting organisations to respond faster than they traditionally would,” said the student. 

Unisa went on to highlight its allocation of student's fees in its response to the Daily Maverick, explaining how payments work. 

According to the university, Unisa has various "allocation codes" for a variety of payments to be made to its bank account, which they say has "consistently been communicated to students", along with "clearly defined" payment instructions, in order to ensure fees are paid to the correct codes and avoid delays.

"Students are always encouraged to carefully choose the correct allocation codes so that their fees can reflect as quickly as possible, and their registrations complete without much delay. In the event that students mistakenly use a wrong allocation code (which is a common occurrence), they are encouraged to submit the requisite proof of payment to the university so that the funds are quickly allocated correctly; and they can complete their application and/or registration." explains Unisa in its statement. 

Molete eventually had her fees correctly allocated after having to travel the Pretoria campus (even though she lives in Lonehill), but has been waiting on her proof of registration for just over a month, which she still has not received at the time of the article's publication.

Another student, a second-year who chose to remain anonymous, had also attempted to register quite soon after registrations opened, but with no luck. 

Unisa's system continually indicated that her registration was “in progress”, yet she had received no communication on whether her registration had been successful or instructions on how to pay her fees.

“I emailed the BA department… I emailed some lecturers. I emailed, like, six times and only one lecturer responded to say what my second major was, and then there was nothing after that.”

When she tried calling Unisa, she waited 45 minutes for someone to answer. The call was cut before she could get any answers, and when she tried calling again, the phone simply rang endlessly.

Like the student before her, she resorted to stepping foot on the Cape Town campus after two weeks of trying to communicate with Unisa, even though Unisa's main attraction is that always having to be on campus is not a necessity.  

Throughout all three of the interviewed student's accounts to the Daily Maverick, getting in touch with and effectively communicating with Unisa is a prevalent concern. 

To test this theory, the Daily Maverick tried calling Unisa's student call centre and waited 31 minutes before giving up.

To explain the reasons why calls aren't being answered, Unisa said it is due to the the Student Communication and Support Centre (SCSC) being "manned by 50 consultants who look after all entry points (Calls, Emails, Webchats and Social Media Direct Messages)." 

"During the busiest times such as application and registration and as a result of the complex nature of many of the queries, the SCSC fields between 130 and 164 incoming calls (Registration and General Enquiries) per 30-minute interval from 08:00 – 17:00 daily. The higher the volumes of calls, the longer the turn-around time (taking into consideration that each query is unique)," elaborated the institution.

"In 2022 alone, the SCSC fielded some 675 927 enquiries. Of these, 670 766 were completed and resolved. In the current semester, some 115 649 enquiries have been fielded so far, with 53 911 completed and resolved," continues the statement, which goes on to further request that students contact the SCSC directly or to make use of a contact point specifically provided by the university. 

Students have noted that registration and application periods are not the only times when they are let down by the institution, particularly on Unisa's online portals.

“They have so many problems because of their entire platform. Even while studying last year… sometimes it would just crash or not work at all. It really can’t handle all the students,” said one the interviewed students. 

The third student interviewed says he has been "locked" out of registering online, therefore also having to take a trip to a campus for some assistance.

“What should have been a simple exercise has turned into a nightmare. Unisa has locked me out and I can’t proceed beyond a certain screen that doesn’t offer any information explaining the reason for the lockout," says Tebogo Mafanele Ngobeni, a law student at Unisa. 

Like the two students before him, Ngobeni called and emailed numerous times, but "No one answers their phones. Not a single email has been responded to,” he said. 

Unisa has attributed the challenges of its online platforms and portals to the "digital gap in our society", which is why students may often need to physically visit a campus. 

Unisa registration opened on 9 January, with the academic year beginning during the week of 13 February 2023.

Registration and assistance with university admin is a common difficulty experienced by students across South Africa's various institutions, that typically arises around the beginning of the academic year. 


Suggested Article:

Unisa students register first semester modules at regional campus

The University of South Africa has announced that it has slightly shifted its registration timelines. This will come as good news to students who have not yet registered. 





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