UCT's laborious applications process will be a thing of the past for many after the online application system is officially launched on Open Day on 17 April.
An extension of PeopleSoft, a student administration system widely used by education institutions, the online application service will allow for a streamlining of the applications process. It is one of several measures being taken, another one of which is a change in application closing dates. The number of deadlines for postgraduate applications has been reduced, and a single closing date has been set for all undergraduate applications - this will be 30 September.
"PeopleSoft was implemented at UCT four years ago, but we were only able to handle some of its functionality at the time," explains deputy registrar Dr Karen van Heerden. "But of course, we couldn't afford not to implement the online applications system."
But why only now? Project leader and Admissions Office director Carl Herman explains: "While other universities have had online applications for several years already, this is not universally the case. The University of the Witwatersrand, for example, are doing it this year as well, and other universities do not offer online applications at all. We are doing it now because our applicants are part of an online age, and students expect universities like UCT to have this facility. Growing numbers of applicants make physical processing increasingly difficult, and there are benefits to commucating with applicants online."
Van Heerden hopes for a wide uptake of the system, which will make the application process faster, easier, and relatively painless.
"Young people are already used to this sort of thing".
Online applications will also smooth the process for Admissions Office staffers. With immediate archiving and a faster response rate, the office will be able to provide a far more efficient service to aspirant students.
"While this will help admissions and faculty-office staff, this functionality has been developed with the applicant in mind," says registrar Hugh Amoore. "This will make the application process a better experience."
The process is not entirely paperless, however. Applicants will still have to use snail-mail to send their signed declarations (to comply with rules, to grant indemnities to UCT and to undertake to pay fees) and certified transcripts. Applicants will also need a valid email address and all the personal information as required for the paper application, including ID documents and fees.
The system was implemented over a short eight months by a team which included Herman, Van Heerden, and the Administrative Computing Services in Information and Communication Technology Services, principally Sean Bester and Yaffa Abraham.
The initial launch will be on a very small scale, but the big fanfare will be on UCT's Open Day. Posters advertising the functionality have already been distributed to schools and are up on the streets.
"We initially tested the system on grade 12 learners. Some were so excited by the process that they promised to come back and fill in the online forms for real," says Van Heerden.
But exactly how big and how fast the uptake of the online application system will be, nobody can say for sure.
"We're all holding our breath," says van Heerden.
Once launched, applicants will be able to use the online system at http://applyonline.uct.ac.za.
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