Varsities ready for new student intake

By Bulelwa Payi Time of article published Mar 7, 2021

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UNIVERSITIES are set to reopen this month and preparations to welcome new students are under way.

The institutions said they would continue offering hybrid tuition as the country fights the Covid-19 pandemic.

Basic Education Minister Angile Motshekga announced the 2020 matric results earlier this week which reflected a 76.2% pass rate.

The University of Cape Town said it had space to enrol 4 200 first-year students, while Stellenbosch university could take as many as 5 200.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) said at this stage it had  place for 7 370 first year students in its undergraduate courses.

So far, CPUT had received more than 65 000 applications while the University of Western Cape (UWC) said it would make 4500 offers to first time students as per the target set by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

All the institutions said they did not expect a throng of students at the lecture halls as they would continue to offer online learning in addition to face-to-face tuition.

They added that students, who had to adopt this new method in 2020 as a result of the lockdown regulations performed well.

"Stellenbosch University students performed slightly better in 2020. Factors that possibly played a role in this is the multimodal, blended approach to teaching and learning; opportunities provided to students to learn in different ways, more flexibly and at their own pace; and multiple assessment methods as well as additional tutorial support," said spokesperson Martin Viljoen.

UCT said it would pursue "a physically distanced, low-density campus approach" to teaching.

"The Senate has decided that all undergraduate courses will be offered via a combination of online lectures and face-to-face activities in small groups. This is to mitigate the risk of the spread of Covid-19 during this second wave, and in preparation for a possible third wave," said spokesperson Elijah Moholola.

However, faculties such as Engineering  and the Built Environment and Health Sciences required attendance on campus, while Humanities and Science specified courses requiring attendance in person.

The Law faculty would conduct teaching online, Moholola added.

"There is no doubt 2020 was a challenging year for all students. We commend our students for their achievements last year in tough circumstances compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

Moholola said some university students were also "on the frontlines" since the Covid-19 crisis broke, working long hours to treat patients, or conducting research on the virus and finding effective strategies to fight it.

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley said the university would follow a "staggered" approach to learning.

"We are still encouraging the majority who can, to continue learning from home. Campus passes are issued on a rotational basis to access to labs and classroom teaching so this keeps numbers down in residence and on campus.

"Our lecturers have been given the appropriate training to teach online and we have found that this has worked well as students and our academics became more familiar with this style," Kansley added.

For the first semester, UWC would only offer online teaching.

Spokesperson Gasant Abarder said the decision would re-assessed by the mid year or a relaxation of national COVID-19 regulations.

Abarder said despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 the University enjoyed a 94% participation rate in classes  and those who could not participate online were able to return to campus to use wifi while following lockdown protocols.

"Catch up periods were also available to students who missed the online learning and teaching," he added.

Universities South Africa (USAF) said in a statement that in 2020 it was able to  raise more than R336 million to help institutions.

The funding was channelled to universities to help with student bursaries, digital transformation and capacity development of academics.

It was not clear yet how much budget would be allocated to the National Student Aid Financial Scheme (NSFAS) this year.

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