University of the Western Cape – Central Campus entry, 28 November 2008.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Danmichaelo

UWC students disrupt lectures on first day back

Lecturers had barely taken attendance before the first wave of student protests kicked off for the year.


University of the Western Cape – Central Campus entry, 28 November 2008.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Danmichaelo

Just as soon as the new academic year kicked off, so too did another wave of student protest at the University of the Western Cape. 

Students disrupted lectures on Monday, shortly before issuing an open letter to UWC management listing several demands, including the postponement of the academic year. 


There was a police presence on the campus on Tuesday morning.

“We don’t want to have to have police on our campus,” spokesperson Gasant Abarder ted TheSouthAfrican. “We need to treat our students as humanely as we possibly can.” 

Abarder said he was “surprised” by the protests.

“We have been engaging with the SLC for some time regarding these issues, and it was my understanding that University management and the SLC were on the same page,” he said.

The University has held discussions with the SLC in the build up to the start of classes, with the primary focus on student accommodation and registration clearance. 

The University experienced major disruptions during the final exam period of 2019 as students protested the outsourcing of accommodation, resulting in a proposed price increase. 

List of demands

In the open letter, the SLC demanded:

  1. A call for the immediate postponement of the start of the academic year to 10 February 2020;
  2. Clearance for registration; and,
  3. Student accommodation.

UCT management said that a postponement was unlikely, as the university had been open since 6 January to accommodate registration processes. 

Postponing the academic year

“The Academic programme has already been scheduled and delays will complicate practicals, placements and general University processes,” they said. 

“Postponing the beginning of the academic year will compromise the completion of the academic programme for the year.”


Students have bemoaned the registration process, claiming they are not being given sufficient access. 

The current registration process is subject to a “clearance process” that ensures that students attempting to register aren’t missing core modules, and it also involves student debt. Abarder said that UWC “will never turn away an academically deserving student on the grounds of student debt.” 

“The SRC wants bulk clearances for registration. This goes against University policy,” he said. 

“We can’t do bulk clearances and clear everyone for registration. The clearance process is vital and needs to happen individually as a student who failed the year cannot be cleared for registration. There is ample time for registration to be completed as Friday this week is the final day of registration.”

“Students are urged to see the Student Credit Management offices so they can receive individual advice about their specific set of circumstances.”

Student Accommodation 

Last year, protests on campus that saw law enforcement agencies called in were centred around student’s call to end the outsourcing of student hostels, which they believed would provide fewer beds. 

“The University had been able to secure 766 bed spaces to accommodate the students previously residing at South Point as well as new qualifying first year students. As of this morning, 3 February 2020, that number increased to 815 bed spaces,” said Abarder. 

Across the country, students have kicked off the year protesting at various universities, notably University of Kwazulu-Natal, where buildings were burned down on Monday.