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UCT ‘needs more black students’

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price chats about his vision for the university. Photo: MICHAEL HAMMOND/UCT

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price chats about his vision for the university. Photo: MICHAEL HAMMOND/UCT

Published Aug 21, 2013


Cape Town - Transformation is taking place at UCT, but not fast enough, says vice-chancellor Max Price as he looks forward to his next five years at the university. He said the university wished to have more black students than its current 29 percent.

The number had increased by 43 percent over the last five years.

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“On the student side, I think we are making very good progress. You have to recognise that something is happening there and it happening because of a very active affirmative action policy. Our target is to have more black South African students than we have.”

Price added that just 25 percent of academic staff were black, Indian or coloured. “We are disappointed we haven’t made faster progress.”

Price said “incrementally and progressively”, UCT was becoming “more and more” a black university.

Staff, students, alumni and friends of UCT gathered in the Baxter Concert Hall on Monday night to hear Price in conversation with Judge Dennis Davis.

The conversation marked the beginning of Price’s second term.

Price discussed his achievements of the past five years, his vision for the next five and the state of higher education, and UCT in particular, in South Africa.

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Touching on the university’s race-based admissions policy, which he acknowledged had received much criticism, Price said he believed factors other than race should be taken into account when considering which students be accepted.

Whether parents or grandparents had tertiary education, which school they attended, whether they were a beneficiary of a social grant and what language they spoke at home should all be taken into account. These should then be weighted with students’ school marks.

Price said he believed a “hybrid” model should be used where 80 percent of students were admitted using these factors and 20 percent based on race.

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He said race remained a proxy for disadvantage in South Africa and should be taken into account.

“Most poor people are black. And most black people are poor… Race is a measure of disadvantage… It is not irrelevant, therefore, to include race as one of the factors.”

UCT was expected to decide whether to change its admissions policy next month - and if so, how to change it.

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More than a year ago, UCT called for public comment on its admissions policy which asked students to state their race.

This policy would remain in place until 2015.

The UCT council and Price had repeatedly said the inclusion of race in the admissions policy was undesirable and that alternative proxies for disadvantage should be found.

Price said one of the issues keeping him up at night when he considered the next five years was funding for universities. There was a threat to funding, he said, as the government was in the process of reviewing its funding formula as it considered spending more on historically disadvantaged institutions.

“That keeps me awake. That could really set us back.”

UCT council chairman, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane, ended the conversation by wishing Price well as he led the university through challenging issues.

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