Measures in place following campus disruptions

13 February 2023

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has noted with concern the disruptive actions on campus, led by the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) today, Monday, 13 February 2023. This disruption has gone beyond the bounds of lawful protest.

It is of concern that the SRC resorted to this latest course of action without having had any engagements with the university management. In the previous round of engagements, as recently as two weeks ago, the management and the SRC worked on the issues tabled and managed to find a resolution to some of the pressing issues.

Prior to this latest protest action, the university had already put several measures in place to respond to issues relating to fee blocks and outstanding student debt.

These include:

  • The UCT Council approved the amended fee debt threshold from R1 000 to R10 000, enabling more students to register in 2023 despite their outstanding debt.
  • The university set aside budget, within the current financial constraints, to assist students in good academic standing who meet the criteria for financial aid through the debt appeals process. For 2022, data shows that at least R1.9 billion (unaudited) was spent in providing financial aid support to UCT students. This amount is an increase of R100 million compared to 2021. The support provided to students has increased in recent years and close to 50% of undergraduate and 30% of postgraduate students receive funding support.
  • The university’s grace period enables students with outstanding debt to access the academic project while working on settling the debt. In 2023, UCT had 251 students whose applications for a grace period was successful, and 30 with pending outcomes.
  • The Department of Finance secured additional sources of funding through two corporates entities. We appreciate this partnership.
  • Students who were in vacation accommodation were allowed to remain in residences while they were engaging with the Department of Finance on reducing their fee debt, or with their relevant faculty regarding readmission appeals on academic grounds.
  • The university is currently providing emergency accommodation to a number of students who are yet to reduce their debt.

The management held an urgent meeting this morning, Monday, 13 February, to consider other measures that can still be implemented. It is, however, important to emphasise that any decisions relating to fee blocks are subject to Council policy.

The decisions by the university management on matters like fee blocks are a function of the existing fee policy as approved by the UCT Council. Further measures being considered by the university include an extended grace period window and a consideration to review the grace period applications which have been declined.

It is of concern that there is a huge number of students who have not been on any financial aid before and who have not been on a grace period, yet they have not reached out to the Financial Aid Office.

While UCT continues to uphold the constitutional right to protest action, it is of concern that the nature of some of the disruptive action on campus today falls outside the bounds of lawful protest. The management of the university calls on the student leadership and anyone participating in protest actions to do so within the confines of the law.

In light of the disruptions that occurred on Monday, 13 February, and following a discussion with the broader Leadership Lekgotla, a decision has been taken to move the teaching and learning programme online with effect from Tuesday, 14 February until further notice. In instances where it is not possible for programmes to be moved online, faculties and/or departments will make specific arrangements and communicate these directly to the staff and students concerned.

Staff members are also advised to work remotely until informed otherwise, with the exception of essential service staff. Line managers will engage further with staff in this regard.

The university leadership will continue engaging with the SRC, and relevant stakeholders, to resolve issues as speedily as possible and ensure the resumption of the in-person academic activities. An emergency Rapid Response Task Team (RRTT) meeting to engage further with the student leadership has been scheduled for Monday, 13 February.

The impact of these unfortunate developments on many of our staff and students, and the huge inconvenience caused, is acknowledged. We wish to thank members of the campus community for their patience, understanding and support while we attend to the issues further to ensure some resolution as speedily as possible.

The UCT Executive

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