Update on the new teaching framework and academic calendar

17 April 2020 | DVC A/Prof Lis Lange

Dear undergraduate students

I hope you and your families are well. I imagine that you are getting anxious about resuming the academic year, so I am writing to you to set your minds at rest.

We have rearranged the academic calendar to enable all of you to learn and complete the semester and the academic year. We are aware that some of you might not be able to learn remotely for various reasons, and we have made provision for this.

Here are the things that you need to know.

Provision of laptops

As indicated in a previous communication from the three deputy vice-chancellors, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has bought laptops which have been allocated to students based on financial need. These computers are ready to be delivered to those students who indicated in PeopleSoft that they wish to receive a loan laptop. We are awaiting clearance from government for the courier service. The Department of Higher Education promised that we will have news about this by Monday, 20 April, at the latest. As soon as this is approved, we will communicate with you.

Access to data

So far, UCT has established agreements with Cell C and Telkom to zero-rate data for South African sites. This means you have free access to certain UCT sites necessary for your academic work: Vula, video lectures, the UCT Libraries website, Open UCT and UCT’s main website. You won’t have to pay data costs when you access these sites. Once the negotiation with MTN and Vodacom is finished, we will let you know.

Ensuring good communication

We are setting up a Call Centre and Referral System (CARES) to handle your queries about connectivity as well as health and psychosocial issues. For the past two weeks we have been contacting those students who did not respond to our survey, which will allow us to better understand your needs. From next week we will start monitoring your participation in remote learning through Vula, and we will alert your faculty when it seems you are not able to connect. We are establishing a team of people who will be taking care of your questions. In a few more days we will have this information ready for circulation.

Access to learning materials

We are trying to set up the distribution of printed learning materials and USB drives for students who cannot access the internet in any way. This is proceeding slower than we would like due to the extension of the lockdown, and we will keep you informed about our progress. We hope that with these study materials, lectures that you can listen to on USB drives, and the possibility of telephonic communication you will be able to follow your courses and keep up.

Introducing a different learning environment

The purpose of the orientation week that starts on Monday, 20 April, is to help you adapt to the new learning environment. We have developed a guide to remote learning that you will use during the orientation week. This will remind you how to use Vula effectively, how to organise your time and how to keep on top of your work. If you cannot start on 20 April, do not panic. There will still be time to catch up.

What you can expect in the new learning environment

We expect you to engage with learning for approximately 30 hours per week. This may be considerably less than what you would have done on campus, but it takes account of the unusual circumstances. The learning materials, lectures, readings, etc will be uploaded to the course sites on Vula. You can engage with these materials in your own time, but lecturers will provide a structure and suggested pace for your studies. There is no lecture timetable to guide you – you will have to take responsibility for developing the necessary discipline to learn.

Thinking about your academic load

You might decide after a while that you will work better if you have a lighter load. We have moved the deadline for dropping courses to 8 May. A special version of the “change of curriculum” form will be available late next week with instructions on how to upload it. We have also agreed that there will be no academic exclusions during 2020. We recognise the anxiety caused by the impact that the academic year timeline adjustments will have on National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding, and we are engaging with NSFAS about this.

How assessment will work

In the majority of your courses there will be continual assessment through regular quizzes, tests and assignments. Your first semester courses will not be examined through invigilated examinations (there are a few exceptions to this in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment). Annual courses (W and H courses) will have invigilated examinations at the end of the year.

All first semester courses, except exit level (final year) courses and courses in the Faculty of Law, will have PASS/FAIL as the final mark. This will not be counted as part of your grade point average (GPA).

What about lab work, field work, studio sessions, etc?

In planning, we have taken into account that things like laboratory work, field work, studio sessions and some specific courses cannot be taught remotely. For example, the Faculty of Health Sciences will use the online option while it is working on the necessary adjustments to clinical training. This will be communicated directly to students. All faculties will communicate directly with students in relation to practical work.

New dates for the rest of the academic year

The second term starts on Monday, 20 April, with an orientation week; you will receive information from your faculty about this. Formal teaching starts on Tuesday, 28 April. We have planned to teach remotely for the second and third terms. The academic year will extend well into December and will continue for some students during January and February 2021.


I would like to reassure you that the whole university is invested in getting you through this difficult period, both academically and emotionally. The systems we have put in place are not perfect, but we will correct and improve as we identify problems.

All these changes are not easy either for you or for your lecturers. However, I have seen sufficient talent, resilience, resourcefulness and strength at UCT to be certain that together we will manage.

Trust yourself, trust us. We are with you and we will be communicating often.

Take care of yourselves.

Warm regards

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

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

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.

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.