Update on exams and completing the academic year

01 November 2016 | Story by Newsroom
Campus announcement
1 November 2016

Dear students and colleagues / Dear parents, guardians and sponsors

The end of the academic year is approaching after a difficult season for everybody at the University of Cape Town. The executive wants to express our appreciation again to all of you, and your lecturers and supervisors, who have gone the extra mile, with the extraordinary support effort from PASS staff, to help preserve some sense of continuity within the academic programme. This in the midst of so many disruptions, including the presence of private security and the South African Police Service on campus. We know it has been difficult for everybody.

We understand that there are many questions about the completion of the academic year. The following information will help you to understand how we are trying to ensure the best chance of success for all students.

Completing the academic year

The deans have been in constant discussion with their faculties about their plans for completing the academic year. Even within faculties there may be different approaches due to the nature of their course delivery. Some faculties will examine students only on the material that was taught up to the end of the first eight weeks of the second semester. (These faculties will have delivered the rest of the material so that the curriculum has been adequately covered.) This applies to most of the humanities and sciences courses.

In the faculties of Health Sciences (first three years of study only) and Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE), additional face-to-face teaching and practicals are required in order to cover the second semester properly. These two faculties will offer a mini-semester in January 2017. This will be an opportunity for contact sessions and will be compulsory for students in specific programmes. For first-, second- and third-year health sciences students, there will be no exams in November. EBE students will have the choice to take the exams on the bulk of the curriculum in November or in January. Those students taking EBE courses that require the mini-semester will have to write a further exam in January based on the mini-semester.

The Commerce and Law faculties will examine the full curriculum, including the first eight weeks of the second semester and the subsequent online or blended learning.

If students feel unprepared to write in November, they have the option to defer either individual exams or their whole exam block to January. Aside from the extra time this allows to prepare, given that the online material remains available throughout the period, faculties will also offer a consolidation period in January for one to three weeks ahead of the deferred and supplementary exams. During the consolidation period, students can access tutors and some lecturers – in person or online – for assistance in understanding any material that they are supposed to have covered. They will also have access to the libraries, computer labs and other campus facilities. Consolidation is not compulsory, but it is available for those who wish to take advantage of additional support. Our aim is to ensure the best chance of success for everyone whether they write in November or January.

This faculty-specific information is available to all students via Vula. Each dean's office and faculty advisor is also available to address specific problems that individual students may have. Please take the initiative to read the information in your Vula account and to raise any questions that you feel have not been addressed.

DP requirements

In almost all courses, students will be granted a duly performed (DP) certificate for the second semester. There are a few individual courses where the matter is still under consideration at the department level. There are also a few cases where some requirements for DP had to be met prior to the disruption of the semester. If those requirements were not met, DP may be refused. In other cases, where meeting professional registration requirements is linked to DP requirements, individual departments will make the necessary arrangements to ensure that students fulfill the professional requirements in a way that is delinked from the DP. Where coursework submissions were part of DP requirements, the submissions will usually still be required but will be delinked from the DP so that DP can be granted and exams can be written. (See also 2016 coursework due dates below).

2016 coursework due dates

Coursework projects and assignments should be submitted as early as possible. Since they usually contribute to students' preparation for exams, they should be submitted not later than the first day of exams, ie 7 November, unless a course convenor indicates otherwise. However, students may apply to course convenors for concession to submit later should this be necessary. These requests will be considered on an individual basis.

The exams plan

The student exam timetable for November has already been released to students.
Check the student exam timetable...

2017 term dates

Changes to the 2016 university calendar were necessary in order to complete the academic year. Work has been underway to update and finalise the 2017 term dates and the proposed calendar has now been approved. Check the 2017 term dates…

Exam venues

On-campus exam venue arrangements are being finalised. A communication on exam arrangements, including venue details, will be distributed later this week. Please check the exam venue before each exam as venues may differ from those previously published. Additional security personnel and security measures will be provided at each exam venue to prevent possible disruption.

Deferred exams

Other than in the Faculty of Health Sciences, students have the option to take their exams in November 2016 or to defer either individual exams or the full exam block to January 2017. Students have already been advised about the deferral process. The self-service function for students wishing to defer the full set of exams closes on 6 November 2016. Students wishing to defer individual exams can apply up until the day before the exam. Students wishing to defer an exam, but who are unable to apply by the deadline (the day before the exam), will have to provide reasons for seeking deferral, such as illness, with the necessary documentation. These applications will be considered by the Deferred Exams Committee.
Check the exam page for detailed information about applying for exam deferrals.

If you defer an exam until January, you cannot defer the exam again should you be unable to write it for whatever reason. Students who miss a deferred exam will be marked “absent”.

Students who are unsure about their readiness to write in November should consult the course convener or their tutor for advice.

Supplementary exams

Not all faculties offer supplementary exams. For those that do, supplementary exams, if granted, will be written in January. The supplementary exam will normally be the same paper as the deferred exam. If a student is unable to take the supplementary exam on the date set, no deferment is given regardless of the cause of the student's absence.

No supplementary exam will be granted on the deferred exams written in January. (This is the case in normal years too.) This is to prevent the loss of the first semester of 2017. However, students writing deferred exams in January will have the opportunity for re-evaluation.


Departments may offer re-evaluations where appropriate (for example, where students have narrowly missed passing the final exam, but have passed their class work). A re-evaluation occurs within the exam period – that is, after the script has been marked, but before the marks are uploaded. (A supplementary exam is held later – not within the same exam period – and is granted by the Faculty Examinations Committee [FEC] where the student has failed a course.)

In cases where a student has deferred writing an exam until January, and then fails that exam at a level that would normally have allowed them to write a supplementary exam, the department will normally offer a re-evaluation, which may take the same form as the exam or a different form.

The turnaround time for re-evaluation is very tight, and students need to be advised that if they leave Cape Town before checking whether they have a re-evaluation, they may miss the opportunity. If a student is given due notice of a re-evaluation and does not take it on the appointed day, there is no further recourse for that student and the (failed) mark stands.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of the information above, please contact your course convenor or head of department.

Laptops for loan to financial aid students

The university has purchased several hundred laptops, which are to be loaned to students on financial aid who do not have their own computers. The priority is for students in residences where there is no easy access to computer laboratories. The laptops are distributed via the wardens, who have informed their students of availability. Also a top priority are Academic Development Programme (ADP) students who have received offers through the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) coordinator. At this stage we are trying to raise funds for more laptops and, if successful, we will distribute further through these channels.

Expanded free internet access for students

In order to facilitate online learning, Vodacom, Telkom, MTN and Cell C have zero-rated critical UCT-related URLs (including Vula and UCT Libraries). Students can now access these sites without incurring data costs.

Libraries and Jammie Shuttles

UCT Libraries will operate on exam hours from 30 October to 25 November 2016. For the most current information on when libraries are open or closed:

The Jammie Shuttle exam timetable will be available on the website soon. For updates, please:


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