The 2020 academic year for university students is expected to end early next year, but scrapping the remaining seven months of the year has not been considered.
Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande announced yesterday that a third of students across the country were expected to return to university during Level 3 of lockdown. The return commenced on 17 June and the full 33% of students were expected to be welcomed back by late August, Nzimande said. This was on condition they could be safely accommodated and health and safety measures were in place.
Students expected to return are those in their final year who are graduating this year and those who need access to laboratories, equipment, connectivity and residence. Students of any year who require technical training and postgraduate students who require laboratory and other technical equipment for their studies were also expected to return. But the phased reopening of universities would affect the academic schedule as the year would only be completed in early 2021, Nzimande said.
“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 early in 2021.
“This will mean a later start to the 2021 academic year for many students and a readjustment of the 2021 academic calendar. He said his department was in talks with the basic education department to determine their plans for the 2020 school year. The intake of first-year students in 2021 would likely be later than usual, he said. Despite this, cancelling of the current academic year was not yet considered.
“We are not yet considering cancelling the school year… We have not reached that stage yet and we hope we do not, but it is difficult to tell, depending on the trajectory of the virus.
“We are trying all we can. How things pan out in future, it is difficult to tell,” said Nzimande. Regulations to guide institutions, private accommodation providers, National Student Financial Aid Scheme and fee-paying students on issues linked to tuition and accommodation fees for the current academic year would soon be published and gazetted.
“All other students remain supported through remote multimodal teaching learning and assessment until they can return to campus,” said Nzimande.