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Academics

Fields of Study: Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Engineering

Witness the ongoing social transformation of South Africa while immersing completely in its life and culture. At the University of Cape Town, you can access a full curriculum of coursework along with experiential learning activities in the humanities, social sciences, natural and physical sciences, engineering, economics, and business administration.

Unique study opportunities

  • Access STEM courses with off-campus fieldwork in biology, botany, zoology, environmental and ecological sciences, and oceanography.
  • Build a research portfolio taking courses with built-in research components.
  • Participate in a community service project in education, law, or public health with a student-run service organization.

Language

Language of Instruction: English

Language Study: Optional

Although all instruction is in English, studying at UCT opens the door to a variety of language study options, including African language courses in Xhosa and Southern Sotho.

Courses and credit

Requirements While Abroad

To successfully complete this program:

  • Take a full-time course of study: Three to four courses for a total of 22 quarter/14.7 semester UC units.
  • Attend all classes; absences are considered when assigning final grades and may be taken as a sign of disrespect.

Current Program Courses

After arrival, on-site staff will help you find and enroll in classes to fulfill degree or general requirements. Most departments issue or post syllabi, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments. As a UCEAP participant, you can access all six of UCT’s faculties (schools):

  • Commerce (includes economics, management, and information systems)
  • Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Health Sciences (limited access)
  • Humanities (includes humanities, fine arts, and social sciences)
  • Law (very limited as most courses are year-long)
  • Science (with lab and field opportunities)

Catalogs and resources

Academic culture

Because undergraduate degrees at UCT are three-year degrees, the academic program is rigorous and expectations are high. Local students are specialized in their fields by the time they enter second- or third-year courses. Professors will expect that you are familiar with the methodology of your major and have completed the basic prerequisites to take upper-division courses. Science courses have practical lab requirements and require advanced research skills. Fourth-year honors courses are taught at a substantially higher level than second- and third-year courses. They require high quality work and mastery of academic research and writing skills.

Instruction at UCT is big on independent learning. Class requirements may appear deceptively light, and lectures may not cover the reading material. In reality, classes may require more homework and reading than UC courses. Instructors will give you the freedom to set the pace for your studies, incorporate readings and lectures into your schedule, and—ultimately—master the material. Doing so is critical when papers are due. After arrival, make an appointment with the Writing Centre for to learn more about what UCT faculty expect in papers.

Given the British background of higher education in South Africa, the relationship between students and instructors is typically formal. While some instructors appreciate lively class discussions, not all instructors care for outspokenness. Overly assertive or casual behavior may offend them. At the beginning of the term, introduce yourself to your instructors and get a sense of what might be welcome in your interactions. Local students can also offer insight on the requirements and the teaching styles of your classes.

During on-site orientation, you’ll get an introduction to the variety of teaching styles at the University of Cape Town as well as campus resources to assist you in adapting to the different styles.

Grades

You will earn direct UC credit and grades for all coursework. The UCEAP grade scale used for UCT awards the full range of grades with plus and minus. UCT grades are converted into UC letter grades by UCEAP before they are reported to your UC campus registrar. At the beginning of the program, you’ll get a review of the specific grading scale.

South African universities have extensive, established procedures for quality control of courses and for protecting the rights of students by ensuring that grading practices are fair and consistent. The University of Cape Town does not use a US grading system. They have a recommended grade conversion; however, it does not have the full range of US grades with plus and minus. Assignments and exams are given a percentage grade that, in most cases, is much lower than what would be expected according to the usual UC scale for comparable work. For example, 75 percent is an A at UCT. It is normal for average work to be marked 60–65; marks in the 60s are equivalent of B grades and are considered indicative of good, solid work.

To get a top grade on papers, you’ll need to demonstrate strong writing skills, critical interpretation of oral and written sources, familiarity with additional reading, original insights, and exceptional formulation and expression of ideas.

Fall grades are usually available in early January; spring grades are usually available in early July.