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Speech therapy students face extra year of study as Fort Hare says 'aikhona

The University of Fort Hare says it cannot pass speech-herapy students who did not log their practical work. File photo.
The University of Fort Hare says it cannot pass speech-herapy students who did not log their practical work. File photo.
Image: Rod Bally

A group of students studying speech-language therapy at the University of Fort Hare are accusing the institution of offering a low-standard course barring them from graduating.

The institution says it is their fault for failing to perform and log the requisite practical work.

The students, who asked not to be named, enrolled for the course since 2018, are frustrated as their approvals from the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) are allegedly pending.

“Some students have failed to meet the HPCSA standard of clinical hours due to the university not providing enough clinical exposure to students. The HPCSA queried inadequate exposure to some clinical areas and questioned the quality of the examinations done in their fourth year, 2021. We were also informed the department is going through a series of evaluations, which is something that should have been done before the university has an intake,” said a representative of the group.

He said they are forced to register for the course as it could not be completed last year.

“This is in contrast to the communication we received earlier this year, where we were informed we don’t necessarily have to register, that if we complete the research module by March 15 we will have completed our degree and graduate in May,” he said.

The students were set to graduate in April this year.

Not only do they decry the financial implications, they are also concerned about the loss of opportunities.

“We were supposed to start community service this year but none of that has happened due to the maladministration and negligence. We have lost job opportunities,” he said.

“All of us were lucky to have funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the health department for the period of the degree. However, with all these complications and not being registered for another year, we lost our funding as we assumed we were done and would not have to register for the new academic year.

“Now we have to register with no funding, meaning we might have student debt due to delays around information as we didn’t have an opportunity to negotiate with our sponsors.”

TimesLIVE has seen transcripts of some students who passed most modules with distinctions.

The university has denied the allegations levelled against it, saying it is in good standing regarding accreditation and standards as outlined by the SA Qualifications Authority and HPCSA.

“The university denies false claims that the programme is under review and/or that the programme’s accreditation is under dispute or being rescinded. The most recent review by HPCSA was in 2021.  Based on the evaluation of the programme, the university met all the requirements and received the necessary accreditation to present this programme,” said JP Roodt, director of institutional advancement.

The institution put the blame on the students, saying it was their responsibility to do exposure hours diligently and to record their submissions.

“If the required clinical exposure hours are not met, the University of Fort Hare cannot allow a student to graduate. 

“The onus falls on students to maintain documentation trails for the experiential/clinical exposure portion of the programme, which is evaluated by members of faculty.

“While the university respects the enthusiasm of our Bachelor of Science in speech-language therapy students to graduate and enter the working world, the university cannot break academic control systems or make exceptions to allow students to graduate if programme requirements are not met,” said Roodt.


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