In much of sub-Saharan Africa, budget shortages and high demand for access have left many universities overcrowded, with a deteriorating infrastructure, a lack of resources, and out-dated curricula. Financially secure African families often send their children to universities abroad. In South Africa, it’s a different story. Many universities are well funded, with curricula that make them competitive with others on the world scene. In fact, some, like the University of Cape Town, are opening their doors to Africans from across the continent. From Cape Town, reporter Unathi Kondile tells us about his visit to the University of Cape Town.
The University of Cape Town, or UCT, prides itself on being a diverse university with a wide curricula and six faculties -- Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Law, Health Sciences, Humanities and Science.
Unlike many other African universities – UCT is financially stable. With its largest source of income being the South African government; still, educational institutions are encouraged to become more self-reliant and to reduce costs and improve efficienc ies within the faculties and departments.
UCT aims to have a five percent budget surplus each year, which means it needs to strengthen management practices, and control spending on students, staff, space and research.
Today, a first year student can expect to pay a minimum of $1700 for tuition and $2500 for accommodation. International students can expect to pay double these amounts, which is on par with international rates, since the South African government subsidy does not cover international students.
UCT’s recognition as a world-class university has also attracted a large number of international students, including Africans. This year alone UCT accepted 4,000 students from more than 104 countries. UCT’s has 20,000 students, 16% of them from other African countries.
UCT has also set up an International Academic Programs Office, which handles international student issues that include tuition fees, accommodation, study permits and orientation programs.
Nan Warner is the manager of a program that includes the liberal and performing arts, social sciences, humanities, economics and education. She is also the acting director at the university’s International Academic Programmes Offices (IAPO).
"The thrust to broaden our participation in African linkages," she said,"is part of this approach. South Africans are still in the process of coming out of isolation -- from each other’s communities, from the rest of the world, and most particularly from other African countries. "
"In many first-world countries the University of Cape Town was and is well known at universities and research centres. In the academic ranking of world universities 2005, the University of Cape Town was placed in the category 203 to 300 of the top 500 universities in the world. It was also ranked first in both Africa and South Africa. "
"When the academic boycotts were lifted, people felt free to visit and to study at UCT. They were comfortable with the quality of the teaching and research carried out at UCT. Added to that was the lure of relatively low fees and cost of living in Cape Town, compared to that at home or in other first-world countries," she said.
International students at the University of Cape Town also rank the university’s curricula as one of the best in Africa.
Fulata Zimba was born in Zambia and later moved to Namibia. He is currently studying for a degree in engineering at the University of Cape Town. His two sisters graduated from the university and are currently employed in Namibia.
She said, "UCT is better. That’s why international students are here, because the standard is much higher than the other universities in Southern Africa."
Kelebogile Gwangwa is a student from Botswana, also studying at the University of Cape Town. He said, "When I finished high school, I wanted to study film and at the time the only university that had film and media was the University of Cape Town, I guess, and I wanted to go to an internationally recognised institution. And also, in South Africa, the feature film industry is booming in Cape Town, so I thought it would be best for me to be in the heart of it."
Not only is UCT attracting African students, but also students from as far as the United States.
Karla Ward is a student from the state of Connecticut, currently doing her post-graduate studies at UCT. She found out about the university through the United States’ Centre for International Educational Exchange, which offered her a programme to study in South Africa.
She said, "I did a study semester here and I liked it a lot. And so I decided there’s more that I can learn, especially here in Cape Town – so I came back. This one has a lot more, I guess, popularity. It’s well respected so that helped me decide I wanted to go here and it’s considered a good university, a good research university."
Most of the students here are encouraged to offer their voluntary support to Cape Town’s disadvantaged communities.
Through these community services, South Africans and international students attempt to redress some of the injustices of the past by contributing to the future of communities in need.
The University of Cape Town provides much-needed professionals in various South African sectors that help promote economic growth, including business and education. Nearly 5,000 of the universities 20,000 students graduate each year, arguably one of the highest in the country.