By Kyle De Klerk
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY.
Mr Carl Herman, UCT’s Director of Admissions, has confirmed reports that UCT did not reach its first-year admissions goal for 2018. According to Herman, this was primarily due to factors including the drought, student unrest, and a trend towards alternative sources of tertiary education. In response, UCT has implemented an admissions review process, which has resulted in a change in both UCT admissions policy and strategy for the 2019 admissions.
Fewer first time applicants (prospective students that have not attended an institution of higher learning prior to applying to UCT) accepted their admissions offers relative to the goal that was set by UCT’s Institutional Planning Department during the “enrolment planning process” that was undertaken early 2017. The goal was the enrolment of 4,200 first time students, of which only 3,912 ended up enrolling in various departments. This is a significant decline from 2017’s numbers, where the goal remained the same while first time student enrolment in 2017 numbered 4,352.
However, relative to 2017, 2018 saw both an increase in the number of undergraduate applications made to UCT, as well as the number of acceptance offers made. Mr Herman explained that at the core of the issue, was that the “take-up rate” (the number of successful applicants that ultimately decide to attend UCT) had declined significantly. When asked to elaborate on this issue, he suggested that the primary relevant factors included the drought which has gripped Cape Town for the past two years, the growth of student activism on campus, and a global trend away from traditional higher education institutions towards alternatives, due to technological proliferation, such as free online courses.
Other factors indicated by UCT’s “no-show survey” (a survey taken by applicants that turned down their admission offers) include uncertainty regarding the status of their Student Housing Application, the high prices of off- campus accommodation, and UCT’s relatively small scholarship offers. Mr Herman indicated that a review process dealing with the drop in the “take-up rate” was already underway, as well as a general review of UCT’s long term admissions strategy.
So far, the review has led to a number of positive outcomes; undergraduate offers across all departments are being made much sooner (49% of the 2019 offer goal has already been reached), as well as a conscious effort to transform UCT’s recruitment policy from one that has historically had a school-centric administrative focus, to one that prioritises the individual applicants themselves, and focuses on removing barriers related to enrolment. This strategy change has already resulted in a rewording of admissions letters to change their tone as well as a concerted effort to improve communication with the applicant; something at which UCT has historically been sub-par.