TUT considers cancelling exams as varsities scramble to save academic year

Tshwane University of Technology. Picture: Samson Ratswana
Tshwane University of Technology. Picture: Samson Ratswana

The Tshwane University of Technology, the largest contact university in the country, is considering the wholesale cancellation of exams this academic year.

Some universities have options for students to de-register ahead of first semester exams.

But the majority of those who responded to City Press indicated that exams would be written online and would take different formats, including open book.

The disruptions of the academic calendar caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has necessitated universities to come up with innovative ways to salvage the academic year.

TUT will leave no student behind in this project as students will be catered in terms of remote teaching as well as contact learning.
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter

TUT, which has a student population of 66 000 students in nine campuses in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, is still contemplating the idea of shelving exams altogether this year due to the impact of Covid-19.

The university also has service centres in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town, Western Cape.

Last week, TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter told City Press that the university was considering a new academic calendar which would entail a mixed-mode of delivery, including remote emergency teaching where students would be connected online, starting from June 1.

“Preference will be given to final year and BTech students. The plan is that if the virus subsides, the new academic year will be from August 3 and exams be written in February next year.

“TUT will leave no student behind in this project as students will be catered in terms of remote teaching as well as contact learning, permitting,” De Ruyter said.

According to the plan, first-year students would write exams in March next year and second-year students in April.

“This is arranged to give the matriculants who will be completing this year an opportunity to apply for space at the university, which would have been left by the final year students,” De Ruyter said.

She said they were in talks with student leaders and were currently conducting a second survey to determine the geographical location of students.

“We intend to give each of our poor students a laptop so that they can connect with their lecturers for remote teaching.”

She said there were no students who had opted to de-register.

What other universities are up to

Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students have been given an option to de-register.

Stellenbosch spokesperson Martin Viljoen said students may cancel their studies or withdraw registration at any time.

Viljoen said students who de-registered before the end of last month would not incur financial losses.

“If they cancel their registration after this deadline, they are liable to pay a specific portion of their study fees as communicated in our calendar, but special requests are considered on an ad hoc basis, taking into consideration circumstances that might pertain to Covid-19 specifically.”

He said exams would take place online next month.

We are encouraging students to continue with their studies and not to de-register.
University of Pretoria spokesperson Rikus Delport

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said they had given students until the end of this month to drop courses or make changes.

First semester courses will not be examined through invigilated exams, with the exception being the faculty of engineering and the built environments.

“The university executive has also agreed that there will be no academic exclusions during this year,” Moholola said.

UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said they gave students up until last Thursday to withdraw their registration.

University of Western Cape spokesperson Gasant Abarder said the university would, where necessary, permit de-registration.

“However, we are looking at ensuring a successful academic year for all students and have not encouraged de-registrations,” Abarder said.

University of Fort Hare spokesperson Tandi Mapukata said the university had placed a moratorium on all assessments until contact teaching sessions, including other blended forms of teaching and learning resume.

Sol Plaatje University spokesperson Kashini Maistry said exams would be done online and said it was too early to assess as no student had been de-registered.

Wits University spokesperson Buhle Zuma said in this year’s revised Almanach June 10 to July 1 was identified as an exam period for faculties requiring assessments to take place.

“In all likelihood, assessments will take the form of a take-home examination and/or an open book and/or a project and/or a multiple choice questionnaire or any other form of remote assessment,” she said.

Rikus Delport, the spokesperson for the University of Pretoria, said they had to adjust teaching and learning to the current online environment, like other institutions.

“We are encouraging students to continue with their studies and not to de-register,” Delport said.

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