Universities in the Western Cape are navigating their way around the intake of prospective students for 2021, considering the effect lockdown has had on future students.

The use of National Benchmark Tests (NBTs), the results of which are usually used by universities in their acceptance or rejection of prospective students, are up in the air as a result of COVID-19. Stellenbosch University announced they will not make use of the tests, while the University of Cape Town (UCT) remain in discussion on the issue.

Given that testing usually takes place at universities, in lecture theatres with large groups of matric pupils filling the seats, it would not be safe for prospective students to partake in testing under the current circumstances. Additionally, while online testing is viewed as a solution, many learners do not have proper access and thus would be disadvantaged in the admissions process.

“Considering the uncertainty regarding the timeline of NBT testing and logistical challenges of testing due to COVID-19, Stellenbosch University will not utilize NBT scores for selection and placement purposes for the 2021-intake,” said Stellenbosch University in a statement.

“Applicants who were requested to write the NBTs before the end of June for selection consideration in the faculties of Law and Medicine and Health Sciences, will no longer be required to do so. NBT will not be taken in account in the calculation of the selection score. In accordance, the NBTs will not be required for admission or placement purposes in any other faculty,” they explained, adding that the only exception to this are applicants from the School of Tomorrow who are still required to take the NBTs.

UCT on the other hand, are still in discussion about the matter. They say admission and placement tests have been used at the university for more than 30 years.

“We are currently in discussion with our Centre for Educational Testing for Access and Placement at UCT, as well as our faculties in terms of how UCT is going to deal with the NBT requirement, which has become a fundamental part of our admissions regime in most of our faculties,” said UCT Registrar, Royston Pillay.

Pillay also said the university is “keeping an open mind” about extending the deadline for admissions for first-year students beyond July 31, 2020.

“We do think that if Grade 12 students are back at school on 1 June, there’s less of a need to extend the application deadline beyond 31 July. But we are considering the fact that students in less resourced schools may need more time for assistance to complete the application process and navigate their way through the system.”

While universities are grappling with the issue of the NBTs , it seems that the tests will commence either way. On the NBT website, they have announced that testing has moved online.

“The NBT will be available to be written online commencing on the 25th of July 2020. If you wish to make use of this opportunity please book the venue at @NBT Online. To write online all you require is access to a quiet room, a computer, laptop or tablet with webcam and microphone, and a stable internet connection,” they said.

Picture:  Facebook / University of Cape Town

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