Academic year 2021

18 June 2021

What to expect in the first semester of 2021 | UCT campus in 2021

Studying at UCT during lockdown

(Updated 19 March 2021) UCT will pursue teaching and learning in 2021 by adopting a physically distanced, low-density campus approach. This is to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, especially in light of the risk of a third wave.

Undergraduate teaching and learning, as well some postgraduate teaching, will use both asynchronous and synchronous online activities (asynchronous activities can be accessed at any time, while synchronous activities require participants to attend according to a specific schedule) and face-to-face teaching of small groups in

COVID-19-compliant venues under physically distanced learning conditions.

It’s important to note that different courses have different attendance requirements and approaches to learning. While faculties such as Engineering & the Built Environment and Health Sciences require students to be physically present on campus, others, including HumanitiesCommerce and Science, specify which courses do and do not require students to attend classes in person. The Faculty of Law will conduct all teaching online.

For postgraduates, the mode of operation will depend on the nature of the programme, the number of students in the programme and the availability of venues. Laboratory, studio, seminar and group work will run on a roster basis to help maintain physical distancing. Fieldwork and internships will be set up to comply with the needs of the programme and health protocols. Guidelines for fieldwork under COVID-19 conditions are available.

Visit the FAQs for Postgraduates page on the Postgraduate Hub.

(Updated 17 February 2021) All students would usually be required to be on campus for the start date of the academic year, but for the first semester this year, as things stand, only students from the faculties of Health Sciences, Science and Engineering & the Built Environment must be physically present at UCT by 15 March 2021. 

Attendance for students from other faculties will be determined by particular courses. Students may, however, be required to be on campus for invigilated tests and exams, but they will be kept fully informed by the relevant faculty. UCT residences will open on 25 February 2021 for postgraduates and on 1 March 2021 for new and returning undergraduate students.

Other important dates are:

  • 25 February: Completion of undergraduate admissions processing
  • 2–12 March: Student registration and orientation
  • 12 March: Parent Orientation (virtual)
  • 15 March: Academic term starts

(Updated 17 February 2021) To limit the spread of COVID-19, UCT is organising single-room residence accommodation and is instituting a “safe arrival” quarantine period that requires students to spend the first seven days after arrival in their rooms. If students become a close contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, the “close contact” quarantine period as prescribed by the National Department of Health (10 days in quarantine) must be followed.

Meals served during the “safe arrival” quarantine period will be charged to students’ fee accounts whether the student is in catering or self-catering residences. UCT will also conduct monitoring and screening during this period and provide medical care and support should students develop any symptoms of COVID-19. This precaution will help the university manage the high-density residence environment in the interests of the safety of all students and staff.

Students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, who are required to be in the health system as part of their academic clinical learning programme, will be informed of the specific safety protocols applicable to them, including conditions under which they may have to enter a quarantine period.

(Updated 22 June 2021) From 19 April to 24 December 2021, UCT will make available study spaces for students not living in residences, but whose internet connectivity and/or studying conditions are negatively impacted by structural and systemic inequality. These spaces will operate from 08:00 to 20:00 from Monday to Friday, and will be monitored by marshals, who are trained senior students reporting to the Department of Student Affairs (DSA).

UCT remains committed to maintaining a low-density campus, and students should only access the campuses in cases of absolute necessity, and not if they are at risk medically. If in doubt, please contact the Student Wellness Service.

Read more on the DSA website for details.

A full assessment of laboratories for social distancing, air conditioning and ventilation, as well as layout to maximise capacity, has resulted in a decision to open some faculty laboratories. These will operate at 50% capacity for face-to-face teaching, while others have made laboratory computers accessible remotely. To help students plan, Information and Communication Technology Services has a dedicated webpage detailing laboratory availability.

Read more about student computing availability during COVID-19.

Student Housing will open its labs for use from 16 April. Lab assistants have received COVID-19 marshal training; areas in the labs have been demarcated; and the necessary personal protective equipment has been supplied.

Students may access the UCT Libraries resources via the Libraries website and a dedicated Virtual Library Support page. Virtual library hours are Monday to Friday, 08.30 to 17:00. Physlcal opening hours and seating capacity in campus libraries is being adjusted in line with the shift to Lockdown Level 3. Please keep track here.

The Jammie Shuttle service has also adjusted its schedule accordingly, and the last pickup will be 20:30.

Read the VC Desk: Additional study spaces made available on campus.

(Updated 12 February 2021) UCT will pursue the physically distanced, low-density campus approach to teaching. The same will apply to residence accommodation. Senate has decided that all undergraduate courses will be offered via a combination of online lectures and face-to-face activities in small groups.

Top of mind is health and safety. Strict protocols will be in place, and staff and students are reminded to continue practising vigilance, wearing suitable masks and following strict sanitising regimes. We are confident that all teaching venues are safe and have appropriate ventilation.

Please take note that different courses have different attendance requirements and different approaches to learning. While faculties such as EBE and Health Sciences require students to be physically present on campus, others, including Humanities and Science, specify which courses require students to attend classes in person. The Faculty of Commerce, meanwhile, does not require students to attend lectures and tutorials on campus, but they must sit for invigilated examinations in person. The Faculty of Law will conduct all teaching entirely online. Please consult your faculty’s web page to ensure you know exactly what will be required from you this year.

(Updated 12 February 2021) First off, you need good internet access and a desktop computer, laptop or tablet to work on. Next, set up a dedicated learning area as your workspace – whether it’s your kitchen table, bedroom or a shared space. Always working in the same space helps you establish a routine. For those in Cape Town who are off campus and not in residence, facilities for study and internet access are available at UCT. To maintain social connection – and to keep yourself and others on track to meet deadlines – become part of a peer buddy system. Also, connect with other students via WhatsApp groups, social media or Vula tools like Forums and Chat. You can also take part in online ice-breakers.

For online assistance with network drives, Netstorage, connectivity and email, get in touch with the Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS):

The following assistance is available for non-ICTS managed services:

  • For assistance with PeopleSoft, UCT’s online self-service student administration system, contact the Helpdesk via email, telephone (X5227 or 4720) or log an online call.
  • Vula is an online collaboration and learning environment used to support UCT courses as well as other UCT-related groups and communities. For additional information, or if you have a query, go to the Vula website, contact the Vula team via email or call 021 650 5500.

If you find yourself in distress and unsure of where to seek help, the UCT Call Centre and Referral System (UCT_Cares) provides a central point of contact for information and services. Send your query to Once received, the UCT_Cares team will either respond with the relevant, general information or will refer you to the relevant department.

(Updated 12 February 2021) Since as early as March 2020, UCT academics have been participating in a series of webinars that discuss how course content, course organisation, activity design and assessment can be enhanced in a digital teaching environment. We updated existing guides for remote teaching and created new ones. The Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) introduced a range of technical innovations to support remote teaching and learning. Other universities have now begun using the extensive resources we’ve developed under Creative Commons licences, not only because the pandemic continues to limit face-to-face learning, but also because blended learning helps students to succeed.

(Updated 12 February 2021) UCT has introduced a range of new tools and technologies to enrich the online learning experience. Course content, activities and assessments are organised through Vula course sites, with Microsoft Teams or Zoom for live sessions. Most recorded lecture videos will have transcripts and captions. Courses may also make use of some new tools introduced for 2021, including Wooclap for interactive polling and rapid feedback, Padlet for building collaboration and community, Hypothesis for annotating texts together, and Gradescope for supporting hand-written or sketched assignment work. Students and lecturers may also make use of social media or other third-party tools for building community and peer support.

(Updated 22 June 2021) Virtual library opening hours are 8:30 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. Physical access to campus libraries has been adjusted in line with Level 3 lockdown requirements. Please check here for opening hours and seating capacity.

Students may access the UCT Libraries resources via the Libraries website and a dedicated Virtual Library Support page.

(Updated 17 February 2021) Please contact your faculty advisor or department via Vula if you have any questions about online learning or other study needs. For help with Vula, you can contact the Vula helpdesk by email or call 021 650 5500 during office hours.

For general IT questions, you can also contact the Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) Helpdesk by email or call 021 650 4500 during office hours.

If you haven’t been able to find a solution to your problem, or are not sure who can help, email the UCT­_Cares team at If they don’t know the answer, they will refer your query onwards.

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UCT campus in 2021

(Updated 22 June 2021) Staff and students who are not staying in residence and do not need to be on campus for academic reasons are strongly encouraged not to come to campus. Although UCT is opening in a planned, coordinated and phased manner to a very limited number of staff and students, this will help us maintain low-density spaces. No one should be on the campuses after 21:00 in order to be home or in their residences in time for the 22:00 curfew.

Teaching and learning at undergraduate level continues as usual in those faculties that require students to be on campus for laboratory or tutorial work. Faculties that require students to sit for invigilated examinations on campus will proceed with their plans under the current Level 3 lockdown.

Staff who are planning to be on campus for any reason still require a letter of authority. While CPS staff may not ask to see it, this document allows the university to monitor potential traffic on campus and in offices.

(Updated 19 March 2021) To limit the spread of COVID-19, UCT has arranged single-room residence accommodation. If a student becomes a close contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, the Student Wellness Service will assist them in following the “close contact” quarantine period as prescribed by the National Department of Health (10 days in quarantine) in quarters that are separate from their residence.

(Updated 19 March 2021) To limit the spread of COVID-19, all students, staff members and visitors to UCT will be required to abide by the following health and safety procedures and protocols:

  • Wear a mask over your mouth and nose in public, including when you leave your residence room. (UCT will provide every staff member and student with three cloth masks.)
  • Keep a distance of at least 1,5 m from other people.
  • Sanitise your hands or wash them frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid crowded places and spaces with poor ventilation.
  • Complete the UCT Daily Health Screening app for each day that you will visit campus.

UCT has prepared study spaces on campus that meet the health and safety protocols under COVID-19 conditions. These are clearly marked to indicate the maximum number of occupants to comply with physical distancing requirements. Students using UCT venues and other facilities are required to follow the prescribed rules and regulations, and to co-operate with students and staff in observing these limitations.

(Updated 22 June 2021) Jammie Shuttle timetables have been updated to align with the requirements of the country’s move to Level 3 lockdown, and the last pickup will be at 20:30 daily. All UCT staff and students who use the Jammie Shuttle are encouraged to download and use the Jammie Shuttle app, if they haven’t already done so, to keep abreast of these changes. This innovative platform makes commuting to, from and around campus both easier and safer.

Students and staff can use the app to check route timetables and expected arrival times at each bus stop, allowing for seamless connections on selected bus routes. The app displays bus movements on a map in real time, ensuring that notices of delays or incidents are immediate.

The app will also help to reduce users’ waiting times at bus stops, thus providing an additional layer of safety.

Read the step-by-step guide about how to download and use the Jammie Shuttle app.

(Updated 19 March 2021) Please contact the following representatives of Student Housing Admissions & Advocacy Services:

(Updated 12 April 2021) Staff at UCT have been asked to continue working from home where possible. This approach remains our default position. All departments have identified those staff members whose work requires them to be on campus. These staff members have been granted access to campus on condition that they present the outcome of their personal health risk assessments on the UCT Daily Health Screening app (which replaces the Higher Health Screening app from 15 April 2021) to the Campus Protection Services officers at checkpoints or faculty entrance points as required. They must also adhere to strict protocols.

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 updates

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.

UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.

Frequently asked questions


Daily updates

Friday, 5 February 14:20, 5 February 2021
Monday, 4 January 16:50, 4 January 2021
Friday, 18 December 11:30, 18 December 2020
Thursday, 19 November 09:30, 19 November 2020
Friday, 13 November 12:40, 13 November 2020
Friday, 16 October 10:05, 16 October 2020
Wednesday, 14 October 12:50, 14 October 2020
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Monday, 31 August 12:20, 31 August 2020
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Thursday, 6 August 18:26, 6 August 2020
Monday, 27 July 14:00, 27 July 2020
Wednesday, 15 July 09:30, 15 July 2020
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Thursday, 25 June 10:15, 25 June 2020
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Monday, 25 May 14:00, 25 May 2020
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Thursday, 30 April 17:10, 30 April 2020
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Wednesday, 22 April 14:25, 22 April 2020
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Tuesday, 14 April 11:30, 14 April 2020
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Wednesday, 8 April 15:40, 8 April 2020
Wednesday, 1 April 15:50, 1 April 2020
Friday, 27 March 11:40, 27 March 2020
Thursday, 26 March 18:30, 26 March 2020
Tuesday, 24 March 15:40, 24 March 2020
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Friday, 20 March 16:00, 20 March 2020
Thursday, 19 March 09:15, 19 March 2020
Wednesday, 18 March 16:00, 18 March 2020
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Campus communications


New SRC and other updates 16:44, 4 November 2020
Virtual graduation ceremonies 13:30, 21 October 2020
Online staff assembly and other updates 15:09, 30 September 2020
Fee adjustments and other updates 15:21, 16 September 2020
Call for proposals: TLC2020 10:15, 26 August 2020
SAULM survey and other updates 15:30, 5 August 2020
COVID-19 cases and other updates 15:26, 5 August 2020
New UCT Council and other updates 15:12, 15 July 2020
Upcoming UCT virtual events 09:30, 15 July 2020
Pre-paid data for UCT students 14:25, 22 April 2020
Update for postgraduate students 12:55, 20 April 2020
UCT Human Resources and COVID-19 16:05, 19 March 2020
UCT confirms second COVID-19 case 09:15, 19 March 2020
Update on UCT COVID-19 response 13:50, 11 March 2020
Update on COVID-19 17:37, 6 March 2020


Video messages from the Department of Medicine

Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19

The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.

To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.

Useful information from UCT

External resources

News and opinions

Statements and media releases

Media releases

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Statements from Government


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.