UCT might scrap its Race-based Admission Policy

2013-03-15 17:04

On the 12 of Feb this year, a commission appointed by the UCT council released its recommendation to the UCT community. In summary the commission recommended and concluded that:

1) “The legacy of South Africa’s past cannot be denied and a commitment to affirmative action should remain.”

2) “The Institutional goals of diversity, and redress for past disadvantage, should continue to prevail, as should the commitment to student funding support, residence support, learning Support and social support.”

3) “An admissions system cannot at this stage in South Africa’s history be based purely on high school performance as measured by marks in examinations. To do so would deny the reality of the legacy of disparity in educational provision in the country.”

The alarming recommendation to all students is the fact that the commission recommends that “RACE” should not be used as a proxy to the UCT admission policy.  It recommends that a “revised admission policy, which will use alternative markers of disadvantage” should be implemented by the university.

A past rooted Race-Debate.

Prior 1994, black higher education in South Africa was largely confined to universities. Segregation and division were institutionalised in education policies of the apartheid regime.  Higher education was skewed in ways designed to deeply entrench the privilege and power of the then ruling white minority. For over hundreds of years race was used in South Africa to serve the interests of one minority group. It gave this group access to the best education, equipping it for the best jobs the economy of could provide.  In doing so, Apartheid unapologetically excluded blacks from getting the kind of education and jobs the other group was getting by simply using race.

The Eiselen Commission on Native Education in 1949-1951 which had a huge influence on the Bantu Education Act of 1953 had its own recommendations to the National Party.

“African education was to reflect the dominance of the ideology of white rule and superiority. Moreover, in accordance with the requirements of the 'separate development', higher education for blacks was to be planned in conjunction with ‘development' programmes for the bantustans and to be placed under the direct control of the Department of Native Affairs. The Commission further recommended that the registration of African students at white institutions be restricted to courses that were unavailable at Fort Hare. This was in line with the thrust of state policy on African education”. It went on to recommend that “Native education should be based on the principles of trusteeship, non-equality and segregation; its aims should be to inculcate the white man's view of life, especially that of the Boer, which is the senior trustee” (quoted in Brooks and Brickhill, 1980:13).

The recommendations of the Eiselen Commission on Native Education would then be the start of a loss of lives and the deprivation of equal access to education for the black South African majority. It was a start of a system that would be defined by student uprising and schooling ungovernance across South Africa. It later shaped the unequal poverty stricken society we now live in.

It is wise then to closely look at the UCT’s “Howie Commission’s” 2013 recommendations and what impact it will have in all South African races, not just blacks but also whites it seeks to include.

By highlighting the South African apartheid past and the Eiselen Commission I do not in any way suggest that the UCT Howie Commission is subscribed or the Senate will subscribe to the apartheid policies of higher education.

I do however in my own opinion believe the commission is playing blindly to the realities of the now South Africa we live in just like those who shaped apartheid policies did. And later in September if the senate removes race it would have done the same.

The commission makes valid undeniable facts but also contradicts itself by saying that race should not be used as proxy at UCT 19 years after the end of the Apartheid regime.

The current race-based UCT Admission policy seeks to be “flexible on access and active in redress”. UCT says its policy “is designed to ensure the recruitment of the best student. It is designed to ensure that UCT has a diverse student body where the South African component of the student body increasingly reflects the demographic diversity of the South African population”. And this policy has defined UCT admission of the South African demographics since 1994 to reverse the inequalities of the apartheid regime.

A race-based admission policy does not in any way infringe on the constitutional rights of others. It’s simply in recognisance of past inequalities of the apartheid regime and an over 300 years system that segregated and excluded blacks in its provision of equal education. It seeks to transform education, re-address those inequalities opening doors of higher learners to all those that were shut in their faces.

The entrance of South African born-frees in institutions of higher learning now in 2013 simply indicates that race-based proxies are only a start in admission policies not the end.

[Senate met to consider the proposed variables on Friday 15 March. However Senate and Council will only take a decision on the 2015 admissions cycle in September of this year as they are now allowing debates and inputs from the UCT community]


South African History online.

UCT Admission Policy

Howie Commission VC email update.

UCT SRC Political Report.

(all accessed online-15-03-13)


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