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

Read previous communications:

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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.