Support services: here to help

28 January 2015

Support services addressing every aspect of student life are available to anyone studying at UCT. This guide is a starting point for freshers to familiarise themselves with the many services available.

First-year experience

The First-Year Experience (FYE) is your introduction to UCT. It is not a service or a centre, but a collective effort to help you adapt to university life and develop a strong sense of belonging.

Aspects of FYE include:

  • An early warning system, which assesses how you are coping with the academic load based on the results following your first round of class tests
  • An academic mentor, a senior student, whose sole purpose is to help you get to grips with the rigours and responsibilities of academic life
  • An online portal, Vula, where you can discuss areas of difficulty in your course with classmates, or contact your lecturer or tutor via email.

Student Orientation and Advocacy Centre

The one-stop shop offering general information on all aspects of campus life – from giving directions to buildings, people or venues to advice and referrals to other UCT services. You (and your parents) would do well to make the Student Orientation and Advocacy Centre your first port of call as you familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of university life.

Student Wellness

Are you unable to shake the flu or the blues? Student Wellness has medical and counselling staff on hand to help. For medical help you can make an appointment during office hours at the office in the Ivan Thoms Building, Rhodes Avenue, Mowbray.

Alternatively, make use of the drop-in service at the Sports Centre, open from Monday to Friday between 10h30 and 15h00. For a consultation with the nurse, you need R25 cash paid up front, while students on financial aid don't pay.

Your appointment with a doctor is charged at medical aid rates. HIV testing and counselling, STI medication and basic contraceptives are available free.

The counselling team can accommodate you within a day or two of your contacting them for an appointment, telephonically or in person. They specialise in individual therapy, but also offer group therapy. This team is busiest around exam times, but there are psychologists on standby for emergencies. The cost for this service is charged on a sliding scale from R20 to R120 and is highly negotiable.

Careers Service

It is best to visit the Careers Service office sooner rather than later in your academic career. They can assist you with your career choice and planning, give you practical tips on how to write a CV or cover letter, and even advise you on gap years and work abroad. You can also gain access to part-time work opportunities, graduate jobs and internships.

Writing Centre

Spruce up your academic writing for free by booking an appointment online at the UCT Writing Centre. This is not an editing or typing service, but will help you improve the quality of your academic writing. You can contact them at any stage of your writing assignment.

Department of Student Affairs

The Department of Student Affairs oversees all student services and activities, including:

  • Student Development, which includes Student Orientation & Advocacy Services, and Sports & Recreation
  • Financial Aid and Administration
  • Student Housing & Residence Life
  • Student Wellness Services

Student Financial Aid

Financial Aid is available to anyone who meets the qualifying criteria, and comes in the form of National Student Financial Aid Scheme loans and UCT-administered bursaries.

Student Housing & Residence Life

UCT has a three-tier residence system with different services, governance and management at each tier. First-tier residences accommodate undergraduate men and women, usually under the age of 21. Second-tier residences provide accommodation for senior undergraduate and postgraduate students, while third-tier residences house senior postgraduate students.

Off-Campus Student Accommodation (OCSAS) Services offers comprehensive information and guidance on off-campus accommodation. If you're looking for off-campus digs, look no further than this database of landlords.

Students' Representative Council (SRC)

You choose the 17 members of UCT's SRC, whose role is to address problems you might encounter during your time at UCT, from accommodation to parking to academic exclusion.

Transformation Services Office

UCT is committed to social transformation. The university's Transformation Services Office coordinates its transformation activities across campus by supporting the important work of entities such as DISCHO, HAICU and the Disability Service, among others.

Disability Service

The Disability Service ensures that the university as a whole is as accessible as possible to those with disabilities. Its work is not only limited to advocacy and counselling on disability issues, but is broad enough to include access to venues and lectures, as well as study material for those with sensory impairments. Go to their website for information on how they can make campus life work for you and the physical challenges you face daily.

Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO)

Those experiencing harassment and discrimination (of any kind) don't have to deal with it alone. UCT has set up DISCHO to help with such complaints in a caring, supportive environment. DISCHO is the place to report sexual offences and discrimination, and works to assist and support you during court procedures, student tribunals and disciplinary hearings, as well as ensuring that both complainants and respondents are treated fairly.

HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity and Change Unit (HAICU)

HIV/AIDS is a reality for a number of students enrolled at UCT. The university's HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity and Change Unit (HAICU) doesn't just reach out to those living with HIV/AIDS, but also takes steps to create awareness through a peer-education programme, ACE's (AIDS Community Educators); curriculum integration; and research into HIV risk behaviour at UCT.

Sports Injuries Centre

Come to have your sports complaints and any other injuries treated by physios and biokineticists at the Sports Injuries Centre in the Sports Centre on upper campus. This clinic treats UCT students and staff as well as members of the public – and charges medical aid rates.


Need a dispute resolved? The office of the Ombud was created to seek fair and equitable resolutions to concerns and problems raised by any member of the university community in a neutral, independent, informal and confidential environment. If you're a member of staff, a past or present student, a visitor to the university, or a contractor with a university-related issue, you can contact the Ombud for help.

Photo by Raymond Botha.

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