The COVID-19-induced challenges of the preceding year continued into 2021. The university community was deeply affected by the pandemic, and the impact of the personal losses suffered with the passing of colleagues, friends, and loved ones was profound. The teaching, learning, and research endeavour of the university continued under very trying circumstances, compounded by the devastating fire on the UCT campus in April 2021. While key buildings were severely affected and the damage to UCT Libraries was particularly severe, there was no associated loss of life or serious injury sustained, and for that the university community is grateful. Notwithstanding these difficult circumstances, the resilience and fortitude of the staff and students were truly remarkable and a very real measure of the kind of institution UCT is.
Student enrolments and graduation rates are particularly important markers of institutional success, and more so given the challenges that the pandemic presented. The actual enrolment in 2021 was 29 608. The total enrolments comprised 17 897 undergraduate full-degree students, 3 201 postgraduates below master’s level, 6 052 master’s students, and 2 235 doctoral enrolments. The balance of enrolments were occasional students. Very significantly, approximately one-third of enrolments were at the honours, master’s or doctoral levels – consistent with the pattern of the previous year.
Graduation ceremonies are long-established celebratory occasions at UCT and valued by students and their families. Unfortunately, graduating students and their families were not able to experience these joyous occasions in person. While COVID-19 health and safety requirements curtailed regular university events and face-to-face ceremonies were not possible, this did not detract from the wonderful academic achievements of our graduates, and we are very proud of all of them. Virtual graduation ceremonies were arranged and in total, 7 081 students earned a UCT qualification during 2021. Of this number, 274 were doctoral degrees, an increase of 40.5% since 2018.
These academic successes are testimony to the hard work and sacrifices of our students, the support of their families, and the work of all UCT staff – academic, professional and support – during what was a very difficult year. While regular graduation events were not possible in 2021, the university hosted an additional informal graduation “walk of celebration” where graduands had an opportunity to walk across a platform outside the Sarah Baartman Hall and have their name called out, while their loved ones were able to celebrate the moment with them. We look forward to returning to more regular face-to-face celebratory events in the future.
As in the preceding year, the challenges of 2021 were real in many important and far-reaching respects. The contributions of staff and students under the most trying circumstances are appreciated and applauded.
Thank you to all for contributing to the success of our university.
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