There has been a run on UCT this year. As part of it admissions process, the university made 7 000 offers to undergraduate applicants, expecting anything between a 55% to 70% take-up rate - as past history showed - depending on the programme. That would come to approximately 4 100 students.
But early reports by registrar Hugh Amoore at last week's PASS Forum suggest that take-up will be much higher, and would likely exceed the 2008 tally of 4 500.
In previous years between 75 000 and 85 000 learners would leave school with university exemption. But in the first year of the National Senior Certificate, that number jumped to around 107 000 at the end of 2008.
A recent newspaper report on bulging numbers at Gauteng universities hinted that all South African universities are likely to see a rise in student numbers.
At UCT a noticeable trend is the spike in interest among first-years in engineering and commerce programmes.
Similarly, UCT expects a higher take-up of residence offers. The university made some 3 300 offers for approximately 1 900 places for first-year students.
Developing a new plan
Strategic planning fora of UCT executives in January and February have debated strategic goals for the university.
These ideas will be presented to heads of departments, deans and PASS departments, after which they will be put to Senate and Council.
Six strategic directions have been proposed:
Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price has suggested that UCT should be involved in five areas where cross-campus expertise could be harnessed to make a difference:
Also under review is UCT's 12-year-old mission statement. This will be looked at to see how it can reflect the key challenges UCT is expected to encounter in the next five years.
Two new DVCs begin their terms this year: Professors Danie Visser and Jo Beall. They join Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo on the executive team.
Earlier this month Council agreed not to appoint a fourth DVC. The selection committee argued that the three appointed DVCs should settle in their respective portfolios. The situation will be reviewed after six months.
In the interim, Council has agreed to appoint Professor Crain Soudien of the School of Education as Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor. He will serve from 1 April to the end of 2009.
Acting DVCs Professors Cyril O'Connor and Daya Reddy will complete their contracts by the end of March this year.
Speaking at the PASS Forum last Thursday, Price said the DVC portfolios were currently under discussion. He foresees that the six strategic areas will be divided among the three DVCs.
Reporting lines between DVC, deans and executive directors would be realigned.
"We need a much flatter structure. For example, DVC's portfolios will not be defined around line function, but around the university's strategic goals," Price said.
Price has also approved the appointment of a UCT Ombudsman and the position will soon be advertised.
The new academic year also heralded a 13.2% average rise in tuition fees. The increase was announced by Council late last year, part of a transformation initiative to help more needy students and to effect a once-off catch-up following three successive years of lower fee increases.
"In the current economic environment we are facing significant hike in recurrent operating costs," Price said.
"Financial support to students is a critical transformation imperative. We cannot speak about transformation through education without dealing with the issue of providing financial support for students."
The additional income will assist a group of lower-income students who do not qualify for financial assistance from the national Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Bursaries for the financially needy have been increased by over 50% from 2008.
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