Impact of Council decisions on academic year

14 March 2021 | VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

I write to you following the UCT Council’s meeting held on Saturday, 13 March 2021 and particularly on important decisions made during this meeting. I also wish to share with you the agreements reached in post Council discussions with key stakeholders, including the Extended Executive Committee, which includes our deans.

At its meeting, Council took several key decisions, some of which may have a direct impact on the commencement of the academic year at UCT. All staff and students are urged to read the decisions carefully and to take responsibility for understanding how the decisions impact their particular circumstances.

Read the Council statement: Statement by the Council of the University of Cape Town

As communicated by the Chair of Council, Ms Babalwa Ngonyama, Council decided that the student registration fee-block in respect of 2020 debt will be lifted for specified categories of students, and the university will make every effort to support students in the process of servicing their debt – with R30 million made available for this purpose. We are taking these measures because we recognise the financial hardships many of our students find themselves in. We will continue to work with other universities to engage government, in order to address the challenges faced by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

In our engagements with the deans this afternoon, we were mindful of the fact that Council’s decisions might mean that some students will need to register this week. Whilst the academic year was meant to kick off tomorrow, we appreciate that Monday will probably be absorbed by registration for the students whose fee block has been lifted. The deans have agreed to do all they can to assist and will continue with the registration of returning students up until and including Friday, 19 March 2021.

All faculties have agreed to be as flexible as possible, and will take varying approaches, which will meet the needs of each faculty. In some faculties, for instance, it will be possible for registration to be concluded within just an extra day, while in others it might take longer depending on the number of students yet to register and any unforeseen technical hiccups that students might encounter. Be assured that our commitment remains to assist all students, to ensure their successful registration and to get them to start their academic year as soon as possible.

Our faculty-specific approaches may mean that in cases where teaching has already commenced, it will continue. Students can be assured that we will assist them if they missed classes due to late registrations. The underlying denominator in all our engagements was a commitment to ensuring that all students are brought fully onboard, are academically up to speed where necessary and are supported so as not to be left behind in the academic programme. I urge students to check with their faculties for their specific approaches.

I am grateful to all, for the willingness to find solutions and to be flexible in order to assist students.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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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.

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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.