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Cape Town -

The Congress of South African Students has opposed proposed amendments to UCT’s admissions policy for 2016.

Provincial spokesman Samkelo Mqomboti said the new policy would only move the country backward.

“Many doors were opened for young black people with the race quota. Should the policy remove this form of transformation it would then bring us a step back to what the country hoped to achieve.

“We believe that academic excellence is important but we also want to make it fair so that everyone can be able to get a fair chance to better education.”

The proposal to amend the university admissions policy started in 2011 when a commission of inquiry was established to examine alternatives to using race to measure disadvantage. Factors to be taken into account, according to the proposal, included whether a prospective student’s parents and grandparents had degrees, home language, whether the family received a social grant, and the school the applicant had attended.

On Wednesday, students at UCT were invited to a consultation meeting regarding the proposed amendment of the university’s admissions policy.

UCT spokeswoman Pat Lucas said the purpose of the meetings was to give students and staff an opportunity to ask questions and for the university to provide feedback.

“We are in discussion with staff and students about the possibility of adjusting its admissions policy for the incoming cohort for 2016. Such a change must first be voted on by the UCT Senate and Council at their next meetings, scheduled for May and June, respectively,” Lucas said.

Questions focused mainly on the process of the new admissions policy, including how the university would verify an applicant’s details.

UCT Vice-Chancellor Max Price said the findings and recommendations of the commission stated that the admissions system could not be based purely on high-school performance as measured by marks in examinations.

“The university should aim to implement a revised admissions policy, using alternative markers of disadvantage, and the policy should preferably commence with the incoming undergraduate class in 2015.

“The basis for affirmative action in admissions should be disadvantage, rather than reliance on ‘race’ as a proxy for disadvantage. The attainability of such a system is a matter for research and consideration,” Price said in a letter to students and staff.

There had also been some debate about whether UCT’s admissions policy was constitutional, Price said. “While race has been a good proxy for disadvantage in the past, there is an increasing (although still small) number of black students who are no longer seriously disadvantaged. On the other hand, there are white students who are disadvantaged but do not benefit from the current policy.”

UCT Students’ Representative Council president Insaaf Isaacs was not available for comment.

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Cape Times