News for and about students around the globe.

R14.1-million NSFAS funding error baffles investigators

Just who or what was responsible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) error that resulted in Sibongile Mani receiving a mistaken R14.1-million payment remained a mystery when the case went back to court yesterday (August 1). The public protector, auditors Ernst & Young, and the the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) all investigated how it could have happened and all have been stumped. When the director of the Intelimali system that paid out the amount was questioned, he admitted that they did not know how it happened but that the company took responsibility. He also said there was no way to block spending after a student had reached their required spent limit. Mali’s charge sheet shows that in less than two hours after the money was transferred, she had spent R20,000 on “prohibited” items such as cigarettes, alcohol and electrical appliances . The trial continues. – More on this story on the Dispatch Live site

DUT suspends seven students and UKZN gets back on track 

Durban University of Technology (DUT) has confirmed that seven students have been issued with precautionary suspension notices for their part in violent protests that took place on campus in July. The seven students had been arrested for being in contravention of a legal order obtained in February barring students from protesting or marching within 150 metres of university property. This week also saw lectures resuming at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) after all five campuses were shut down due to protests in which a lecture hall was set alight and security guards were attacked. UKZN’s central SRC president Sanele Hlongwane said the situation had returned to normal. Consultation between university management and the SRC ended in an agreement on resolutions to address student concerns over academic exclusion, postgraduate admissions, student funding, and accommodation amongst other issues. – Read more on the IOL news site.

Bursaries made available to boost PhD numbers

A new programme to address the shortage of academic staff with PhDs has been launched by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the South African Technology Network (SATN). The Staff PhD Capacity Enhancement Programme is giving 50 aspiring PhD students from 11 South African universities of technology (UoTs) and previously disadvantaged universities an opportunity to complete their studies. The programme aims to ensure that candidates complete their PhD studies in the prescribed four-year timeframe as opposed to a national average of eight years. It is structured towards reducing the dropout rate of PhD candidates in South Africa, which is estimated at 60%. The first two modules took place in July and were welcomed by candidates who said they already had a better understanding of what was expected of them throughout each stage of the PhD – Read more on the SATN press release

Stellies grad builds tracker to aid fight against rhino poachers

A doctoral graduate from Stellenbosch University, Dr SP Le Roux, has designed a biotelemetry tag to track rhinos more easily. Using GPS tracking and machine learning algorithms, the tag will record all the rhinos’ movements and gives conservationists the chance to review the data and flag specific situations (if a rhino is lying down too much or running away from danger). If the device encounters similar situations, it will alert park rangers who can then send drones or go to see what is taking place. The goal is to successfully alert rangers during a poaching situation. The device might also be used by farmers to better monitor livestock. – Read more on the IOL news site

Strict new law to stamp out cheating on Australian campuses

A new federal law intends to stamp out cheating on university campuses in Australia. Anyone found guilty of helping a student cheat could face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to AU$210,000 (just over R2million). Universities Australia spokesperson Catriona Jackson has warned that the wording in the draft is so broad that it could mean anyone who even suggests minor changes to a student’s work would be breaking the law. She went on to say that her organisation would prefer that some of the language had a little more attention before the final version of the draft was released. The legislation will also apply to websites offering to complete assignments or sit examinations in exchange for a fee. Such sites have become common and academics believe that more and more students and international students are making use of them. A recent study found that cheating is influenced by three key factors: if students speak a language other than English at home; if they perceive there are “lots of opportunities to cheat” and if they are “dissatisfied with the teaching and learning environment”. – Read more on the University World News site