Students’ return to campus under level two

11 September 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear students

I write to update you on the university’s plan to return more students to residences and to campus.

Effective from September 2020, under the current national lockdown alert Level 2, the higher education department’s guidelines allow for a maximum 66% of students to be returned to campus, conditional on institutions assuming accountability for phased return in strict alignment with public health and safety protocols.

To this effect, UCT has developed a framework for the return of students to residences, and for some students and staff to return to campus, within a phased approach. In line with the government’s COVID-19 guidelines, UCT is following a principled, four-phase approach to students’ return to residences and to campus with due regard to health and safety regulations and management of risk.

The approach adopted by UCT is to, first and foremost, prioritise the public health and safety protocols being implemented at individual and at collective level for the UCT population. For instance, ensuring that physical distancing in residences is aligned to the legislated public health protocols means that UCT is limited to only single occupancy per room. Therefore, the use of shared rooms is not possible for now. The university also has to have public health screening measures in place for its staff and students, including ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

Second, all decisions regarding the phased return of students are underpinned by equity and fairness, taking into account the deepening of inequality as a result of COVID-19.

The phased return of students is ongoing.

Of the 7 700 students in our residence system, an initial cohort of 2 000 students were approved to return to residence. Since September 2020, under alert Level 2, a further 3 100 students have been approved for return to residences. The return of students has been aligned to each of the below four phases:

  • Phase 1: final-year medical students (this has been implemented).
  • Phase 2: vulnerable students (the first cohort has been invited back to residence, a further two cohorts will be invited).
  • Phase 3: students who need to be on campus to complete the academic year (in progress until October).
  • Phase 4: the return of all other students to campus (circumstances permitting, and to be advised by UCT as guided by national regulations).

Once phase three is completed, UCT would have returned approximately 5 100 residence students (which is 66% of the 7 700 residence student population), of which approximately 4 200 students will be in university residences and just over 900 will be in UCT-leased accommodation.

We reiterate that this return is being implemented by invitation only, after the necessary public health assessments have been concluded and after formal authorisation has been granted for return to UCT either at the residences or on campus. Very strict monitoring, physical distancing and other health regulations will be in place for those returning. No other student or staff member, apart from those identified, will be able to return. All students invited to return to residence must undergo a 10-day self-quarantine period.

As shared in my last communication, UCT’s priorities are to protect the lives and well-being of the university community, to conclude the academic year, to adhere to all government public health protocols and to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The UCT executive appreciates the understanding, flexibility and ingenuity shown by members of the university community during a particularly difficult time.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”


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.