UCT Announces New Infrastructure Projects Totalling R500 Million

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This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.


The University of Cape Town has officially received permission to proceed with plans to construct seven new buildings over the next three years, a plan that will cost several hundred million rand.


Image by Tao Varty


The massive development initiative – recently approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Hasso Plattner Foundation and the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) – includes a new residence, a facility for the study of design, and a building dedicated to skin health. It will cost hundreds of millions of rand, none of which will be paid for with student fees, according to Nigel Haupt, UCT’s Capital Planning and Projects Director.


“Funding for any infrastructure cannot be funded from tuition fees as this income is ring-fenced,” Haupt said. Although the project is expected to cost more than R500 million, UCT plans to finance it with a mixture of public and private donors – not student fee hikes, Haupt said.


A key part of the project will be a new design centre, which will make UCT the third place in the world to host a HPI school of Design. The “D-School” building comes with an estimated price tag of R100 million, which will be funded primarily by the Hasso Plattner Foundation, a philanthropic organization started by Hasso Plattner, the co-founder of global software giant SAP.


“Plattner has donated almost half of his fortune for the benefit of public good via the foundation,” said Richard Perez, director of D-school, in an email.


The building is intended to lead “innovation, problem solving and integrated thinking” on campus, including programs to create businesses that solve problems in society, said Alan Cliff, the Interim Dean of the Centre for Higher Education Development. The building is also targeting “a 6-star green rating,” indicating the highest level of environmental sustainability that a building can have, according to the Green Building Council of South Africa.


The success of this project is very important for the university and management has made it a matter of high priority, Cliff said.


In addition to the D-School, SETA is currently developing a new six-storey research centre called the Africa Research Institute for Skin Health on the health sciences campus, which is intended to improve the academic experience of Faculty of Health Sciences students. The purpose of the ARISE building is to train people in skin health and skin safety testing for cosmetic and occupational products, Haupt said.


Also this year, in September, Groote Schuur Hospital will be opening a new Neuroscience Centre costing roughly R100 million that is sponsored by a private donor, Haupt said. UCT also plans to open a Graduate School of Business showcasing an academic conference centre by the end of the current fall semester and a new School of Education by the end of 2020, combining for a cost of nearly R200 million that will be funded by DHET. UCT also plans to construct a new parking structure north of the Sports Centre with the goal of accommodating 1,000 motor vehicles, costing roughly R20 million, according to Haupt.


The most expensive project, however, will be a new residence called Avenue Road, complete with 550 beds, water saving devices such as grey water systems, and potentially electricity generation measures such as heat pumps and solar panels, Haupt said. The residence has an estimated cost of R220 million, Haupt said.


“Avenue Hall comes as a welcome relief” to the need for accommodation for students, said Daniel Tate, the SRC Residences and Housing Coordinator.


While these new projects will improve the quality of UCT’s facilities, they will also come with a substantial price tag, forcing UCT to allocate sustainable sources of funding.


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