Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many South African universities have taken to online teaching to protect students from contracting and spreading the virus. Since many restrictions have been loosened recently, some may have expected that in-person teaching would soon resume. However, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has decided to complete the academic year through remote teaching.

The decision has been approved by the Senate and Council. As a result, the academic calendar has changed. The second semester now has 64 teaching days and 13 days of vacation between September 21 and October 4.

In a statement by Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Associate Professor Lis Lange, she explained that the necessary social distancing renders in-person teaching impossible.

“The country is currently experiencing the predicted peak of COVID-19 infection and we are advised that another peak is likely to occur in August.  We will not be able to maintain the necessary social distancing if we return to face-to-face teaching in campus lecture halls and other academic spaces in the fourth term. Nor will we be able to accommodate all students in residence under safe conditions,” she said.

According to Lange, the university has learnt more about remote teaching through their recent experiences thereof, and will continue the second semester in the same way.

The amended academic calendar has also been made to include the phased return of students.

“The amended UCT calendar is aligned with the phased return of students, including those registered in performing arts courses and those needing to undertake practical blocks. The phased return will also continue, by invitation, for select groups of postgraduate research students who need to use on-campus facilities to complete their research projects, where this can be accommodated appropriately,” she explained.

Lange noted that Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment and the Faculty of Health Sciences have slightly different calendars to the general academic calendar, however, these faculties will also be teaching remotely.

About the return to campus, Lange said that the university is aware that most students would prefer to return to university residences. “We need to manage simultaneously students’ needs, health risks and the availability of safe spaces under lockdown conditions. Therefore we will continue with a phased approach for the return of students, where possible or needed.”

“During September and October different groups of students will be invited to return to campus to complete work in their courses. Some of these students will be invited to return to residences, while others, who did not live in residence accommodation earlier this year, will be invited to come back to campus. The identification of these students will be done centrally in collaboration with the faculties and the Department of Student Affairs. Within the next month we will be making specific announcements as to how this will take place,” she explained.

These are UCT’s academic year calendar highlights:

– Quarter 3 starts on  August 3 and ends on September 18

– Quarter 4 starts on October 5 and ends on November 13

– From October 5 to October 16 there is a practical block for the second quarter component of first semester

– From October 19 to November 13 there is a practical block for second semester courses

– Consolidation takes place between November 16 and 18

– Exams for second semester courses start on November 19 and end on December 9

– Exams for first semester courses start on December 10 and end on December 20

Picture: Facebook / University of Cape Town

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