Wits University assists the missing middle with funding through corporate donations.

Wits’ missing middle students stand to benefit from a R3-million donation to the university earlier this month. 

Investment firm Old Mutual contributed the funds which will be used to assist students who do not qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and their household annual gross income is less than R600 000, students now referred to as the “missing middle”. 

“We really appreciate the corporate support. People are coming on board. The donation is not a first of its kind. We really appreciate the significant donations the certain corporates have made. It is an ongoing relationship and we are deeply appreciative,” said Peter Bezuidenhout, director of the Wits Advancement, Development and Fundraising Office (DFO).

The DFO distributes donations received from various corporates to the Discretionary Student Support Funds, where the funding is most needed. The DFO’s external donor liaison, Celine Steyn said, “More than 20 000 students received some form of funding from external sources in the 2016 academic year. Steyn said, “The corporate has a set criteria and we go according to the criteria provided. Some donors choose certain faculties, which is aligned to what they do and we source from that field. Some donors’ criteria require a certain average between 60%-65%. Sometimes the criteria can be depending on gender and race. The funding was allocated according to the donor’s criteria.” 

Steyn stressed that all students should apply to the discretionary funding student portal. The application is added to a database and students that match donor’s criteria may receive funding, taking people off the database. ” [This] makes it easier for us and can keep track of what is happening,” said Steyn.

In 2016, Wits received a total of R78 million in donations, which came from the wide range of donors to the University: corporations, corporate foundations, philanthropic foundations, SETAs and individual donors.


Old Mutual hands over a R3-million cheque, donating to the missing middle. Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

Old Mutual hands over a R3-million cheque, donating to the missing middle.
Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

The corporate donation supports the recipient student in different ways depending on the donor’s requirements. The most important factors the donor are concerned about is, “how can the donation be spread. Sometimes there is a specific amount allocated per student. The donor looks at what are their causes and what they need. In the case of the Old Mutual they are looking at about 100 students to fund”, said Steyn.

When asked about the conditions of the donation made by Old Mutual, Steyn said “donors may not request refunds from students that fail. We have negotiated with the donor to lower the mark. However, most students have met the criteria.”

The DFO is currently in the process of identifying qualifying students. However, the entire process will take a few weeks before the money is allocated to ensure a, “fair, justifiable and auditable process,” said Bezuidenhoudt.