In November of 2022 I was fortunate to be treated to a tour of the main UCT campus nestled just underneath the majestic Table Mountain.
The leading university on the African continent, UCT is home to around 5000 international students at undergraduate and graduate level and offers a wide range of programmes across its six academic faculties. The importance of academic achievement is emphasised through the largely grade-based admissions systems with each place being contested by up to eleven applicants.
The facilities are spread across multiple attractive campuses and the panoramic view from the main location is hard to beat – covering the whole of Cape Town and well beyond! Students were just finishing off exams and heading home for the summer so campus was pretty quiet, but it was easy to see why both full degree students and the many who come for a semester abroad enjoy their time here.
- Mid-sized public research university
- Oldest university in South Africa (1918) and consistently regarded as the most prestigious on the African continent
- UCT is the only African member of the Global University Leaders Forum made up of 29 of the world’s top universities
- All programmes are delivered in English
- Around 29,000+ students – 5,000+ international (undergraduate and postgraduate)
- One of the most diverse campuses in South Africa – students from 100+ countries across Africa and the rest of the world
- Around 11 applicants for each place
- Six campuses across Cape Town
- The main campus area is on the Rhodes Estate on the slopes of Devil’s Peak – stunning views of Table Mountain and the whole of Cape Town
- Cape Town is a historic and cosmopolitan city offering beaches, mountains, forests, a vibrant music and arts culture, and abundant sporting and leisure facilities.
- CT is the centre of politics, business, industry and services for the Western Cape region and there are many opportunities for students to interact with the city’s professional communities
- The campuses are fully staffed with 24/7 security services, but prospective students should be aware that safety is an issue across the city and ensure that they educate themselves on how to stay safe.
- Six faculties: Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Law, Sciences, and Humanities.
- Very strong commerce, law and medical faculties.
- Commerce is the largest faculty, law the smallest
- Only South Africa students can apply to study medicine
- Research at UCT is heavily focused on Africa
- Students are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials and laboratory classes.
- UCT has extensive computing and library facilities – the main library is very modern in design with spacious reading areas, group project rooms, audio-visual viewing areas, wireless internet access, and ample photocopying, printing and scanning facilities.
- The Vincent Kolbe Knowledge Commons is a fully equipped undergraduate learning faculty offering professional help and high-end IT facilities. There is also a 24/7 study area and a bookless Library Learning Lounge with virtual services and Library Buddies on hand to support students.
- The Academic Development Programme runs a range of Extended Curriculum Programmes (ECPs) and individual courses and workshops to support students academically – more resources, more class time in smaller groups, more contact with academic staff, and more social support. This is a slightly longer, but more supported route to a degree.
- The Writing Centre and Writing Lab offer students the chance to book individual consultations to work with a consultant on their academic writing.
- The Careers Service is award winning, future focused and innovative – it has been commended by both students, and local and international employers for its professionalism. It offers virtual interview rooms, customised resources, daily career consultations, and an online portal: MyCareer. It offers the full spectrum of career-related services.
- The application cycle opens on 1st April and closes on 31st July – late applications are not accepted
- Apply online
- International application fee is R300
- Students can apply for two programmes in the same or different faculties
- Students can change the programmes they have applied for up until 31st August.
- Grades are the most important factor in the admission decision – but, as a campus committed to diversity, cultural background can also be a consideration.
- A Faculty Points Score (FPS) is used to rank the best applicants, but adjustments are also made in order to redress on the basis of disadvantage and diversity
- Predicted grades must be submitted by the 31st October.
- Proof of English Language is also due by the 31st October.
- International students are exempt from sitting the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) required of SA students, unless they are applying for a programme in the Faculty of Health Sciences. NBTs can be taken online from a student’s home.
- Some programmes will require a portfolio – eg. Fine Arts, Architecture, Music and Theatre.
- International students must have attracted an offer of admission by Nov 15th – this is to allow enough time for study visas to be obtained
- After application students may receive a conditional offer or a firm offer, or they can be denied or waitlisted.
- *IMPORTANT: in addition to meeting the UCT admission criteria, students with non-South African secondary school leaving certificates must also have met the requirements for matriculation exemption according to their high school curriculum
- UCT uses a courses based fee structure
- Fee status is based on a student’s citizenship or residence at the time of application.
- Current fees can be found here
- International students can pay in two instalments. The first must be paid before arriving in Cape Town
- There are no bursaries/scholarships for international students
- American citizens may apply for US Federal Aid (Direct Loans)
- UCT is also an accredited institution for Canadian Federal Aid.
- The Mastercard Foundation Scholarship is available to citizens of a Sub-Saharan African country
- 19 students residences
- International students will be guaranteed accommodation in their first year
- Mixed gender and single gender options – many rooms are shared and roommates are randomly assigned. Half of all first years are in double rooms.
- The residence system has three tiers – your tier depends on you length of time in the system, time at UTC, and whether you give time for service or work part-time in a residence
- Each tier provides different services, governance and management. New students will enter a first-tier (catering) residence and are provided with three meals a day in a dining hall. Students can choose a meal plan.
- In later years, when they move up a tier, students can have the option of self-catered residences.
- Students are expected to provide and launder their own bed linen and clean their own rooms. Vacuum cleaners and other materials are provided.
- Applications for student housing close 31st July.
- Many 2nd and 3rd year students will stay in leased or private accommodation near the campus. There is an Off Campus Student Accommodation Service where vacancies are advertised.
- 100+ societies: academic, political, religious, national/cultural, and special interest
- Opportunities to participate in student governance through the annually elected Students’ Representative Council.
- 40+ sports clubs – traditional sports are well catered for and there are also options for pursuits such as sailing, water skiing and scuba diving.
- UCT has a proud tradition in local Western Province leagues and at the national Student Tournaments.
- Most clubs engage the services of top-level coaches, many of whom coach at provincial level.
- State of the art artificial grass soccer field – approved by FIFA for training World Cup teams
- Other facilities include: an artificial hockey field, indoor sports complex, and excellent tennis, squash, soccer, rugby, cricket and fitness centre facilities.
- The rowing club is one of the best equipped university clubs in SA. UCT also owns a mountain near Ceres, a L26 Keelboat, sailing dinghies, and a wakeboard boat.
- Lots of opportunity to volunteer and engage in community projects: school tutoring for high school learners, social enterprise projects for adults starting businesses, mobile health clinics with health science student volunteers, fundraising and sustainability activities – just a few of the many on offer!
- Past students include five Nobel Laureates including, most recently, J M Coetzee
- An online Virtual Open Day is held in April
- Jammie Shuttle Service – a shuttle for the sole use of UCT students and staff offers a scheduled service 7 days a week during term times and vacations. There is also a late night service. It operates between all campuses, most residences, and local public transport terminals. It is free of charge.
- The International Academic Programmes Office supports international students and provides comprehensive information before you start and a dedicated orientation programme to welcome you to the university and SA.
- The study visa process should take about 8-12 weeks. You can apply for a study visa once you have received either a conditional or firm offer of a place. The application should be made to the nearest South African embassy.
- The Student Wellness Service offers general medical services and psychological/counselling during office hours throughout the year.
- Students with a disability should contact the Disability Service if they are considering studying at UCT so they can ensure a support system can be out in place before arrival.