Five universities are lagging behind with the academic year

Some universities have fallen further behind others, for various reasons, when it comes to completing the academic year. This was revealed at a recent press briefing by Blade Nzimande, minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

“In terms of completion of the 2020 academic year, 10 universities aim to complete the academic year before the end of the 2020 calendar year, four universities plan to end in January 2021, seven universities plan to complete in February 2021, and five universities plan to complete in March 2021,” explained Nzimande.

Higher education students have had to study from home for most of this academic year with constraints on data and the availability of laptops, particularly for students in rural areas.

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“There were some universities that were not able to start their academic year effectively before the lockdown and that is also reflected in this staggered end of the academic year,” he said.

“It is anticipated that as students return to campus with the move to Level 1, the teaching and learning programme will advance more rapidly, with catch-up programmes for students who have not been able to engage satisfactorily to be implemented,” he said.

As the announcement of the National Senior Certificate examination results is expected late in February next year, Nzimande said the new academic year for first-year students will be staggered between March 8, 2021 and April 12, 2021.

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The Minister outlined that the department had held one-on-one engagements with all institutions that were at high or medium risk, and has been providing ongoing support.

“For the universities at medium risk, general observations are that they still have some way to go to complete their first semester programme. Summative assessments, where these are required, have yet to begin,” Nzimande said. 

The names of the institutions which have fallen most behind were not mentioned. Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu are probably included, given shutdowns at the respective campuses earlier in the year. The universities of Venda, Zululand and Fort Hare also experienced delays with the provision of laptops and data.