Campus Update on recent developments

24 February 2016 | Professor Francis Petersen

Dear colleagues and students

You will have seen the previous Campus Announcement about the sewage thrown on campus early today. This communication serves to inform you of the latest developments on the UCT campus, particularly around:

  • The financial aid appeals process;
  • Student housing;
  • The establishment of a UCT sexual assault response team;
  • Crime in surrounding community of the university; and
  • Feedback on private security.

Financial aid and appeals: 3 562 students have received financial aid and GAP funding for 2016. These students met both the academic and financial eligibility requirements. The total student financial aid for 2015 to undergraduates totaled R550 million, up from R538 million in 2014 and R505 million in 2013. In 2016 all undergraduate financial aid will amount to over R550 million.

Following the announcement from the vice-chancellor in January on UCT's plan to help students with debt, over 700 students who did not meet the requirements above appealed to the financial aid appeals committee. The appeals committee assessed each case on its own merit and 422 students were successful in their appeals, as some had improved their performance following loss of financial aid the previous year or were in their final year of study.

A total of 157 appeals were unsuccessful. The overwhelming majority of these appeals did not meet the academic or financial eligibility set out by NSFAS or UCT. NSFAS requires that all students pass at least 50% of their courses and not have been academically excluded. UCT has adopted the same requirement to ensure consistency when dealing with all applications for funding. Yet even amongst those who had passed less than 50% of their courses, the appeals committee took the view that all students who were in their final year of study should be assisted as it is in the best interest of the country, student and the university to ensure that such students complete their degrees and are financially assisted to do so.

Other unsuccessful appeals were from students did not meet the financial eligibility, for example, those whose family's household income is more than R550 000 a year. Others were doing postgraduate study or are doing a second undergraduate qualification. The university offers a sibling rebate to parents with more than one child studying at the university, if they do not qualify for either financial aid or GAP funding. It should also be noted that the appeals committee assesses what a family can afford and not all the outstanding debt is converted into a loan. The family may still be required to pay part of the debt. Payment plans have, however, been entered into to allow students with debt less than R10 000 to register while still owing some money.

Other appeals did not provide the necessary supporting documents and an outcome will only be communicated once all the information has been provided and assessed.

The deadline for all appeals was 5 February 2016, but was extended to 12 February 2016. All appeals received on or before 12 February have been assessed and students have been informed if they were successful, unsuccessful or needed to provide supporting documents.

For further detail on the financial aid process click here.

Accommodation update: Everyone who was offered accommodation (prior to arriving at UCT) has been placed, including all first-year students, who have been placed within the residence system. Student Housing & Residence Life has also reduced the number of students in temporary accommodation to 30. The majority of this group are senior students, who, in terms of UCT's housing policy do not qualify for student accommodation, but who are still being assisted. In addition to the over 6 000 students that were placed in residences, UCT also assisted in the placement of an additional 2 400 students in private accommodation.

UCT has accommodation for 6 600 students. However it is clear that the need for residence accommodation is increasing year-on-year and that affordability remains a critical issue for many students. In the last five years, UCT has added 880 beds through the new Obz Square residence. This remains a challenge however, and one on which the university is focusing.

The university recently appealed to private property owners near the campus to avail their homes or flats to accommodate our students. Our request was very well received and our Student Housing office is extremely busy processing all offers received. Preference is given to accommodation on the university's Jammie Shuttle route. Those that fall outside this will only be considered should the university still require more accommodation and decide to extend the search beyond the Jammie Shuttle route.

There have been distorted reports about certain accommodation offers being turned down by UCT. Unfortunately, some of these are far from the campus and off the Jammie Shuttle routes. Others would have required rentals way above current rentals in our residences, placing additional risk on our student housing operations. The minimum requirement to enter into this type of commercial transaction is that each student residence breaks even on operations. Part of the proposal was over outsourcing of the operations to reduce the net operating losses, which was seen not to be feasible by UCT at the time and in the aftermath of #FeesMustFall and #EndOutsourcing proved to be a sound decision. The university is committed to considering all accommodation proposals that are financially sustainable and are market-related.

There is a claim by Rhodes Must Fall that UCT gives preference to white and international students in residences. This is incorrect: the residence policy ensures preference is given to financial aid students and students from out of town. The majority of students in residences are black and this figure is rising year-on-year. About 2% of students in residence are international Semester Study Abroad students and about 2% of places are given to students residing close to UCT. There is also a claim that students are given preference in certain residences where their parents resided. This too is untrue. Students are not given a choice for a particular residence, nor may wardens select them. Places are allocated randomly to ensure diversity of race, class, academic results, country and place of origin.

Establishment of a UCT sexual assault response team: To ensure a coordinated and consistent level of care and support to victims of sexual violence on campus, the vice-chancellor has established a sexual assault response team (SART). SART comprises a multidisciplinary team of professionals who will work collaboratively to respond to those members of the campus community affected by sexual violence.

SART's aim is to provide survivor-centred, compassionate and comprehensive services on campus and will be headed up by the Faculty of Health Sciences' Associate Professor Sinegugu Duma.

As coordinator, she will be responsible for SART's establishment as well as the coordination of all its services. Team members will include Student Wellness Services staff, including a medical practitioner (or professional nurse) and a psychologist; Campus Protection Services representatives; lay 'advocates' or counsellors and a staff representative from the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Office (DISCHO). Team members from outside UCT will include: a SAPS representative from the nearest police station; a prosecutor; a representative from the Rape Crisis Centre (for students who prefer off-campus follow-up care and counselling); and a representative from the Hospital Emergency Room (to negotiate prioritised care for UCT cases).

Crime in surrounding communities of the university: We urge members of the campus community to continue to be vigilant in the wake of two serious crimes that were reported on Friday 19 February. At 11h30 on that day a member of the UCT community was riding his bicycle on the M3 near Newlands when he was stopped and stabbed by an unknown assailant, who then proceeded to steal the bicycle. That night, at 20h50, an armed robbery took place in a shop on the ground floor of the Obz Square residence on Main Road, Observatory. Three armed suspects threatened the shop owner as well as two Campus Protection Services officers and a student with a firearm and robbed them of cash, cell phones, a wrist watch and a two-way radio. Both cases were reported to SAPS. Eight suspects involved in crimes, especially violent ones that have occurred in the area surrounding UCT, were arrested by the SAPS over the weekend.

Feedback on private security: There have been allegations that private security officials have harassed or assaulted members of the UCT community. The university takes these allegations extremely seriously. Please report these to the university Ombud or on 021 650 4805. Private security work under instruction from UCT and have a strict code of conduct; should any member not be adhering to this code, action will be taken against them.


Professor Francis Petersen
Chair of the Special Executive Task Team

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