2021 university academic programme likely to start be later than usual - Nzimande

A general view of the University of Cape Town on January 21, 2020 in Cape Town.
A general view of the University of Cape Town on January 21, 2020 in Cape Town.
Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
  • Universities and colleges started phasing in the first groups of returning students and plan to reintegrate everyone by end-August.
  • To date, 20 universities have welcomed students back onto campuses and residences.
  • The 2020 academic year is expected to be concluded in early 2021.

Intake of first-year university students in 2021 may be a bit later than usual, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande has announced.

Nzimande made the announcement during an update to the nation on measures being taken by the sector amid Covid-19.

Providing an update on the staggered return of the remaining 33% of students to campuses, Nzimande said they would all be reintegrated at their institutions by the end of August.

He said 20 universities had welcomed students back onto campuses and residences to date.

Sefako Makgatho University, University of Fort Hare, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Walter Sisulu University, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Free State have planned to reintegrate their students by the end of August.

Nzimande said the department was working with Universities South Africa (USAF) and Higher Health to give support to all institutions.


"In terms of the planned return to campus, and the reworking of the 2020 academic year calendar, the 2020 academic year will only be completed in the early part of 2021. This will mean a later start to the 2021 academic year for many students and a readjustment of the 2021 academic calendar.

"I must also indicate that we have been discussing with the Department of Basic Education to determine their plans on the coming to an end of the 2020 school year. It is likely that the intake of first-year university students in 2021 will be later than usual," said Nzimande.

Nzimande said this would require a change in the regular academic year to ensure that the 2021 academic year finishes within the 2021 calendar year.

The minister said he would soon be gazetting guidelines for institutions, private accommodation providers, NSFAS and fee-paying students on issues related to tuition and accommodation fees for the 2020 academic year, because it would be extended.

Like universities, TVET colleges were also using Higher Health's guidelines on health and safety protocols on the phased return of students, Nzimande said.

Community Education Training (CET) centres had also opened under lockdown Level 3 from 23 June, he announced.

He added that the expected return rate for students enrolled for the General Education and Training Certificate, senior certificate and occupational programmes was 133 000.

Colleges and infections

The report back from college management, however, was that the return rate was low because of anxieties or fears of exposure to Covid-19.

"In addition, the return rate is affected by the closure of 312 Community Learning Centres (CLCs) out of the 1 810 CLCs, due to hosting schools not complying with the regulations for operations under Covid-19," Nzimande said.

On infections at CET colleges, the minister said the North West, Free State, Western Cape and Gauteng were worst hit by the pandemic.

He said the department was expecting colleges to submit reports on their assessment and evaluations on the state of colleges since the academic programme resumed on 23 June.

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