A host of problems

Once the poster child for the pro­vi­sion of nearly free uni­ver­sity edu­ca­tion, Cida City Cam­pus is under busi­ness res­cue. Res­cue prac­ti­tioner Rob Dev­ereux of Sturns took con­trol of the non-​profit pri­vate uni­ver­sity in Decem­ber 2012.

Cida had man­age­ment prob­lems, stu­dent prob­lems and gov­er­nance issues com­bined with an inabil­ity to raise schol­ar­ships,” says Devereux.

Based in Lyn­d­hurst, Johan­nes­burg, Cida has assets of R60m and debts of about R20m. Its cred­i­tors include the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, the City of Johan­nes­burg and Rand Aid. Cida offers a bach­e­lor of busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion degree and is funded through pri­vate schol­ar­ships and donations.

Since its estab­lish­ment in 2000, Cida has received fund­ing from high-​profile donors such as Dell, JPMor­gan, Richard Bran­son, Oprah Win­frey and many local com­pa­nies. Cida cofounder and CEO Taddy Blecher left in 2007 after a donor raised ques­tions about the then com­pul­sory prac­tice of tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion by students.

Some stu­dents say they are unhappy that the busi­ness res­cue process has “finan­cially excluded” 171 stu­dents from study­ing. A stu­dent who did not want to be named says Sturns is “profit-​thirsty” and “run­ning the insti­tu­tion like a cor­po­rate entity”.

But Dev­ereux paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. He says 50 stu­dents grad­u­ated at the end of last year and should have left the cam­pus but were still enjoy­ing the free facil­i­ties, includ­ing food and trans­port. Another 60 final-​year stu­dents failed their exams last year but had since rewrit­ten them and passed, so they had to leave.

Another 236 had fallen foul of Cida’s rule that a schol­ar­ship is awarded on con­di­tion a stu­dent com­pletes the degree within three years and passes at least 75% of courses in the last year. This leaves around 400 stu­dents who qual­ify to stay. The ex-​students must all leave the cam­pus by May 24.

The free ride is over,” says Dev­ereux. Eric Lev­en­stein of Werks­mans Attor­neys, rep­re­sent­ing the stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil in the mat­ter, did not wish to com­ment. But Dev­ereux says the SRC is argu­ing stu­dents are cred­i­tors as they have to pay an admin­is­tra­tion fee of R164/​year. Dev­ereux aims to improve rela­tion­ships with donors, giv­ing them more feed­back and get­ting them more involved in the stu­dents’ futures.

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