University of Zululand students allegedly went on the rampage on Tuesday night, burning a lecture hall and damaging a number of buildings.
"One lecture hall was completely ravaged when it was set alight and a number of buildings were damaged by stones. The damage could be well over a million rand," registrar Sishokonke Mapisa said.
Among the buildings damaged were the student representative offices, the library, lecture theatres and computer labs.
Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the matter was being investigated and no one had been arrested. Police officers were patrolling the campus.
Xolani Ngwezi, secretary of Inkatha Freedom Party-aligned student wing, Sadesmo, claimed the South African Students Congress (Sasco) was behind the damage.
He said leaders of the ANC-aligned Sasco had walked out of a meeting called to resolve an impasse in the student representative council (SRC) elections outcome.
Sasco was declared the winner of last month's SRC elections by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) after Sadesmo failed to submit its candidate list in time.
Sadesmo then sought legal advice and rebutted the IEC's pronouncement.
Chief electoral commissioner Pansy Tlakula sent a letter to rector Rachel Gumbi advising the university to declare elections null and void.
On Tuesday, a meeting was called by head of student services Mandla Hlongwana to convince leaders from both organisations to form a governance structure which would look after students' issues before elections were held.
Mapisa said it was impossible for the institution to hold elections before the end of the year, as final examinations would begin next week.
"We have asked them to form a structure, but Sasco does not want it. Another option that the institution has is that of appointing an official to be a caretaker before the elections are held."
He said the only time for elections was February next year, after students had registered.
"Having an interim structure can solve this problem. We will continue persuading students to accept this option."
Sadesmo's Ngwezi said they were disappointed by the alleged behaviour of Sasco members.
"This will have far-reaching implications as the university will have to allocate funds to repair the damage."
Sasco's Thabani Mthabela said it was irresponsible for Sadesmo to start pointing fingers and that the police should be allowed to investigate the vandalism.
"This could have been done by anybody. Members of both Sadesmo and Sasco are angry with what is happening with the issue of elections."
He said Sasco members were angry their leaders were not allowed to occupy their SRC positions, and Sadesmo members angry about not taking part in the elections. - Sapa