Dr Ian Mackintosh
UCT's current merit-plus-choice residence allocation policy has resulted in a perceived hierarchy among individual residences, says Dr Ian Mackintosh, Director of Student Housing and Residence Life.
Speaking at the Vice-Chancellor's Open Planning Forum held on June 9, Mackintosh said the current policy, which seeks to assist faculties recruit high quality students to UCT, has lead to relatively high concentrations of students in certain faculties and programmes in particular "preferred" residences.
Mackintosh explained: "These preferred residences tend to be seen as more academic while other residences are perceived as being more social in orientation and therefore having lower status.
"In addition to this unwelcome categorisation, there is considerable demand for entry or transfer to the preferred residences and this is proving increasingly difficult to meet," he said.
While this situation is partly caused by the physical characteristics of the buildings, for example proximity to Upper Campus or the availability of single rooms, characteristics that are difficult, if not impossible to alter, Mackintosh believes the University can change the way students are allocated to residences.
The options include:
- continuing to apply a mix of academic merit, equity and choice to residence allocations but with more fine-tuning and balance when dealing with these factors
- dropping academic merit as a factor and attempting to satisfy personal choice as far as capacity allows, and
- dropping both academic merit and choice elements and focusing solely on equity and diversity.
The importance of deciding which option would be more desirable should be aligned with UCT's goals for a new institutional culture and the impact the decision would have on the recruitment of students, Mackintosh added.
And while there had been significant achievements in the transformation of the residence system, especially in overall representivity among both students and staff, UCT still faced a number of challenges in achieving a more comprehensive equity and diversity.
Mackintosh agrees with the sentiments of Professor Ian Bunting, the executive chair of the residences committee in the 1990s who played a leading role in the formulation and management of UCT's residence admissions and allocation policies up to the year 2000, when he said: "We must remember that UCT is still doing relatively well as it has a residence system that works. Many other universities are wanting to outsource the residence system because it is proving to be so problematic."