Update on UCT changes in teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

20 March 2020 | DVC A/Prof Lis Lange

Dear students

Greetings to you all.  I am writing to inform you about how the academic programme will proceed during the second term of teaching at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This message applies to undergraduate students in the faculties of Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Humanities, Law and Science. Students in the Faculty of Health Sciences will be contacted separately.

I know many of you have questions and anxieties about the future of your studies at UCT during the COVID-19 crisis. Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has already communicated to you about the need to suspend classes and close student residences.

The State of Disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa forces all of us into new approaches to what we do, to help flatten the potential curve of infection.

Even with suspended lectures and closed residences, the academic programme needs to continue at UCT. The university shares with  you the responsibility to parents, funders and the country at large for ensuring that you receive education in the different faculties.

To deliver the academic content planned for this year during this time of crisis, we have to move teaching and learning online. I know that this creates considerable anxiety among students because this is new and unexpected, and because some of you are living in circumstances that will make it difficult to study and work online at home. We are dealing with all these issues to ensure that no one is left behind because of the need to teach remotely online. The information available indicates that we could be working online between three and five months.

Here is the timeline for preparing for Term 2:

  • 1 April: by this date we will inform you about how the term will be organised, including how assessment will take place.
  • 6-9 April: The second term will start with four days of orientation online, to make sure you are connected, comfortable and ready to learn.
  • 16 April: Actual teaching will begin.

We have already set up a Teaching Online Task Team, where all faculties are represented along with student representation. The Task Team has support from colleagues in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and other units in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), Student Wellness, the Disability Service, the Libraries and the Information and Communication Technology Services Department. This task team is responsible leading and coordinating the process of putting all our courses online so you can access them from home.

Our work has three parts:

  • First, a focus on staff at faculty level, to prepare academics to teach their courses online.
  • Second, a focus on establishing the right type of communication with students to support you before you go online and during the process of learning online. Our aim is for you to feel as connected as possible to UCT when you are at home.
  • Third, a focus on vulnerable students who might need extra help to learn online. This includes students with disabilities, students who are less familiar with computers and the internet as learning spaces, and students who need to learn in a more challenging social setup.

We are aware that for some of you access to data is an issue. Arrangements are being made by UCT, Universities South Africa (USAf) and service providers for zero-rated mobile data to specific UCT online resources, to keep  the costs of remote learning as low as possible.

To better understand and support you, we will soon email you a survey about your circumstances and readiness for online learning. It is important that you complete this as soon as possible, to allow us to plan for your needs. We are preparing a start-up pack for your learning online experience, to be available to you by orientation week (6-9 April).  We are setting up the necessary infrastructure and services for you to have support during this time. We are also preparing a communication to your parents, to alert them about your needs during this time and explain how they can support you.

This is an opportunity not only to continue your studies but to practice online skills that you will be able to use throughout your career.  We are facing not only COVID-19, but also the fourth industrial revolution, where technology will play a more central role in everybody’s life. We recognise that there will be challenges for all of us in working this way. Your input now and feedback during Term 2 will be valuable in helping UCT to improve our approach to online teaching and learning.

We believe that you can do this and excel. Together we are going to make a success out of this crisis. Meanwhile, please use the current break to rest and get ready.

Best wishes,

Associate Professor Lis Lange
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

Updates will be posted on UCT’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 feature page on the UCT News website.

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UCT’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March 2020 and to implement a national lockdown from 26 March 2020. UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.

Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has in June 2022 repealed some of South Africa’s remaining COVID-19 regulations: namely, sections 16A, 16B and 16C of the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions under the National Health Act. We are now no longer required to wear masks or limit gatherings. Venue restrictions and checks for travellers coming into South Africa have now also been removed.

In July 2022, the University of Cape Town (UCT) revised its approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic on UCT campuses in 2022.
Read the latest document available on the UCT policies web page.


Campus communications


Adjusting to our new environment 16:50, 23 June 2022
VC Open Lecture and other updates 17:04, 13 April 2022
Feedback from UCT Council meeting of 12 March 2022 09:45, 18 March 2022
UCT Council
March 2022 graduation celebration 16:45, 8 March 2022
Report on the meeting of UCT Council of 21 February 2022 19:30, 21 February 2022
UCT Council
COVID-19 management 2022 11:55, 14 February 2022
Return to campus arrangements 2022 11:15, 4 February 2022

UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre

On Wednesday, 20 July, staff from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences came together with representatives from the Western Cape Government at the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre at Forest Hill Residence to acknowledge the centre’s significance in the fight against COVID-19 and to thank its staff for their contributions. The centre opened on 1 September 2021 with the aim of providing quality vaccination services to UCT staff, students and the nearby communities, as well as to create an opportunity for medical students from the Faculty of Health Sciences to gain practical public health skills. The vaccination centre ceased operations on Friday, 29 July 2022.

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.


“After almost a year of operation, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, located at the Forest Hill residence complex in Mowbray, will close on Friday, 29 July 2022. I am extremely grateful and proud of all staff, students and everyone involved in this important project.”
– Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.

Thank You UCT Community

Frequently asked questions


Global Citizen Asks: Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe & Effective?

UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) collaborated with Global Citizen, speaking to trusted experts to dispel vaccine misinformation.

If you have further questions about the COVID-19 vaccine check out the FAQ produced by the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation (DTHF). The DTHF has developed a dedicated chat function where you can ask your vaccine-related questions on the bottom right hand corner of the website.

IDM YouTube channel | IDM website


“As a contact university, we look forward to readjusting our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in 2023 as the COVID-19 regulations have been repealed.”
– Prof Harsha Kathard, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.