Destination UCT: Getting a snapshot of Africa’s best

08 May 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Lerato Maduna. Videography Boikhutso Ntsoko, Ruairi Abrahams. Video Edit Boikhutso Ntsoko. VP Team Roxanne Harris, Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko, and Nomfundo Xolo. Read time 6 min.
Students engage in UCT Open Day activities.

There was a splash of energetic curiosity across the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) campuses on Saturday, 4 May, as the institution hosted its 2024 Open Day to thousands of prospective students and their parents.

The day is a dedicated information session that covers every fabric of UCT. It is also seen as the perfect opportunity for prospective students to learn more about the degrees they are interested in and what life might be like as a student at UCT. Prospective students attended student support services exhibitions, faculty talks, and much more.

Speaking via a pre-recorded message, Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy said the institution is a “vibrant student community”. He added that the day is an opportunity to assist those who aren’t sure about which programme to enrol for. “UCT alumni are sought after by employers around the world, and we have one of the highest graduate employment rates in the country,” he said.

“Destination UCT,” said one enthusiastic learner taking snaps of his surroundings.


“The office receives approximately 100 000 applications for only 4 500 spaces for first year.”

As the day got started, students were introduced to how the admissions process at UCT works, as led by director of admissions, Gcinumzi Haduse, who painted a picture of a fair process leading up to official acceptance and enrolment at UCT.

“As an institution that consistently ranks as the top university [in Africa], it pleases us to see a great deal of interest [in UCT] because in order for you to be able to see how good you are, you need to test yourself among the best,” said Haduse.

“We are sitting at about 26 [public] universities in the country and to have a situation where UCT consistently ranks number one presents UCT with a challenge of other universities trying to unseat us in that position. That should be the driving force for prospective students. A feeling of ‘we want to be there’. The six faculties at UCT handle admissions – and not the admissions office. The office receives approximately 100 000 applications for only 4 500 spaces for first year.”

The day is well supported by UCT volunteers who offer much-needed information.

Haduse also stressed that the university is already sifting through applications and will do so until the closing date, which is 31 July. “We currently have 30 000 applications already,” he told the audience.

However, before students can think of their entry to UCT, there is the National Benchmark Test (NBT) which was underscored as an important step to getting into university. This presentation was delivered by the NBT’s operations manager, Emlyn Balarin, and Juandre Alard, who heads the NBT’s logistics.

Not a barrier to study

Balarin explained that the NBT’s purpose is to try and assist students with success in higher education. “It is not a barrier to study. It’s a diagnostic test to identify where students may or may not require additional support and whether students have the requisite academic skills to be successful at university,” he said.

“The difference between NBT and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) is that the NSC measures your competency in curriculum content. Your matric results reflect how well you’ve mastered the subject content as determined by the curriculum. The NBT on the other hand determines to what extent a school-leaver is prepared for the core academic and quantitative literacy and mathematics demands in higher education. Universities really want you to pass; once you have been admitted, they want you to be successful and move swiftly through the system.”


“We train you to systematically inquire and analyse how governments work.”

An enthusiastic gathering listened to Associate Professor Zwelethu Jolobe from the Department of Political Studies as he took them through the study of the discipline, dispelling the myth that the study of politics is linked to becoming a politician.

“You don’t need a degree to get into politics. It is also not about training to conduct general commentary about politics. All the things we think politicians do, we don’t train for that. What we do is to train you to systematically inquire and analyse how governments work. We also look at how governments impact the lives of people and how people relate to government,” said Associate Professor Jolobe.

To allay parents’ fears on what a student may do with a politics major, he said one may enter areas of research; international organisations (NGOs and humanitarian groups); and government (ministries, parliament).

The rain during Open Day did not deter students from flocking to UCT for an information-packed day.


The recreation side of things was also on display through sport, and recreation manager, Mark Bashe, emphasised that as a department, they have employed a #WeAreUCT slogan as a show of force for the talented athletes in their ranks.

“We narrowly lost the rugby Varsity Cup final; women’s hockey is currently second in the provincial league and we’re rowing champions. So, we have very good sportspeople at UCT. We have strong waterpolo teams (male and female) and very strong swimming squads which participate in national tournaments as well.

“We promote your wellness; not just your competitive side but for students to be active while pursuing academic excellence,” said Bashe.

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