STANDOFF:  Students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate, as the #FeesMustFall protests resume. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
STANDOFF: Students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate, as the #FeesMustFall protests resume. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

UNIVERSITIES are in a scramble to rescue what is left of the academic year after disappointed and disgruntled student groups vowed a nationwide shutdown following Monday’s fee announcement.

University of the Witwatersrand students will march on the JSE on Tuesday, accusing the bourse of being part of the "capitalisation of higher education".

Students made the call for a nationwide shutdown on Monday and met late into the night.

The tense situation, which bears striking similarities to what happened in 2015, has been triggered by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement that universities can go ahead with fee increases for 2017, capped at 8%.

The University of Witwatersrand on Monday said it had deployed additional security, and that police were on stand-by. The institution is expecting the academic programme to continue.

There was a heavy police presence visible on campus, as students staged a sit-in at the university’s entrance and exit.

University spokeswoman Shirona Patel said negotiations with student leaders would continue.

Late on Monday the students held a mass meeting at which they resolved that the shutdown would continue on Tuesday. Some expressed bitter disappointment in the minister for showing a lack of leadership after months of uncertainty about whether fee hikes would be approved.

The fee protests form part of a wider debate on the state of higher education in the country and whether the academic programme needs to be overhauled.

The University of Johannesburg said its students were due to return from a break next week and it would assess the situation then.

Spokeswoman Kaamini Reddy said: "At the moment there are no contingency plans, but we are determined to have safety for the students and carry on with uninterrupted teaching and learning."

The University of Cape Town has suspended classes and closed facilities, maintaining that it has received threats of arson attacks and was informed it would be a focal point for protests.

Vice-chancellor Max Price said the institution had opted against implementing the level of security needed to keep the academic programme going.

The University of Free State suspended academic activities on Monday amid a call for a complete shutdown from its student representative council.