Phased-in return of students to tertiary institutions

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Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande, announced measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at tertiary institutions last week.

In Level 4 of the lockdown, students in their final year of study in programmes requiring clinical training returned, starting with medicine (MBChB). Other programmes such as Nursing, Dental and Veterinary Sciences where phased-in to campuses.

In Level 3, universities only allowed a maximum of 33% of the student population to be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department.

Students who may return in Level 3:

  • Students in the final year of their programmes, who are on a path to graduating in 2020
  • Final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to the residence and private accommodation
  • Students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes (provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols)
  • Post Graduate students who require laboratory equipment and other technical equipment to undertake their studies

The planned and staggered return of the remaining 33% of students to campuses started on June 17, when the first students arrived at some universities, and will continue until late August, by which time the full 33% will have been reintegrated into campuses across the country.

To date, 20 universities have welcomed students back onto their campuses and residences.

The following institutions have planned to reintegrate their students by the end of August: Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (from 13 July); University of Fort Hare (from 13 July); Mangosuthu University of Technology (from 17 July); Walter Sisulu University (1 August); Tshwane University of Technology (3 August); University of the Free State (31 August).

For the Technical and Vocational Training Colleges, engineering students returned as follows: N6 and N3: 10 June, N5 and N2: 15 June, N4 and N1: 22 June.  Business studies students returned as follows: N6: 25 June, N5: 29 June, N4: 06 July. NC (V) students are as follows: Level 4:  13 July, Level 3:  20 July, Level 2:  27 July.

Under Level 3 lockdown, the Community Education Training (CET) colleges opened on 23 June and the expected return rate was 133 000 students who are enrolled for the General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) ABET, Senior Certificate and Occupational programmes. An indication that has been given by college management is that the return rate is low mainly due to anxieties or fear of exposure to COVID 19.

Level 2

When the country moves to Level 2 of the strategy, a maximum of 66% of the student population will be allowed to return to contact tuition on campuses.

Students who will return are:

  • All groups that have already returned
  • Students in all years of study who require laboratory and technical equipment to complete the academic year
  • Students in all years of study who require practical placements/ experiential learning/ workplace-based learning to complete the academic year
  • First year students in all undergraduate programmes

Level 1

When Level 1 is announced, it is expected that 100% of the student population should return to campus. A two-week period will be given for students to travel back to their campuses and institutions to ensure that campuses are prepared for the reintegration.

In the video below, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, holds a media briefing on measures implemented on COVID-19 within the Higher Education: