South Africa

Department sets out deadlines for universities to finish academic year

Cape Town - The Higher Education Department said on Friday that it has assessed 26 universities and categorised 19 as low risk and seven others as medium risk.

"At the moment no universities are considered to be at high risk. We are going to have a situation where we see completion of the academic year across all institutions as being more likely," deputy director general for university education Diane Parker said.

She was speaking during a briefing to the higher education portfolio committee on saving the 2020 academic year on Friday.

Parker said the universities would complete the academic year with a very good opportunity for all students to succeed.

She also said they were working with the seven institutions categorised as medium risk.

The institutions were categorised as such because they still had some way to go before completing the semester programme, the assessment process was still to get underway and a significant number of students did not fully engage in teaching and learning.

"The average percentage of students that are reported at universities not to be fully engaged is 7% and it ranges from zero to 29%. This is the issue that must be firmly engaged going forward, and it is receiving attention," Parker said.

She told MPs that they know of 10 universities that aimed to complete before the end of the calendar year.

These are Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Sol Plaatjie University, Stellenbosch University, UCT, University of Free State, University of Johannesburg, Unisa, University Of the Western Cape and Wits.

Parker also said four other universities aim to complete the academic year in January. They are Durban University of Technology, North West University, Rhodes University and the University of Mpumalanga.

She said others - Central University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Venda and Vaal University of Technology - planned to complete in February.

The five that would complete their academic years in March are: Sefako Makgatho University, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Fort hare, university of Zululandand Walter Sisulu University.

Parker told MPs that some of the universities were finishing next year because they lost time at the beginning of the 2020 before the lockdown because of various reasons such as protests.

"They could not get the academic year off the ground before lockdown. It makes sense to stretch to a later period in 2021," she said.

Parker said they were working on protocols and safety issues to save the academic year.

"While institutions can have up to 100 return to residence and contact teaching, the actual percentage will be dependent on any particular context and institutional plans.

"There are still restrictions due to the need for physical distancing," she said, adding that hybrid learning was being implemented.

Political Bureau

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