South Africa’s top-ranked university is moving to a hybrid working model

 ·8 Jul 2022

After more than two years of significant disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Cape Town (UCT) says it putting plans in place to return to normal face-to-face teaching and adopting a hybrid working model.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, UCT said that it took stringent measures to curtail the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Students were required to return home and the university adopted an emergency remote teaching and learning model to continue the academic project. Most staff, except for essential workers such as researchers and clinicians in the Faculty of Health Sciences, were required to work from home.

Speaking during a virtual briefing at the start of July, the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said UCT is now committed to normalising its in-person and on-campus activities as soon as possible.

The change follows recent amendments made by health minister Joe Phaahla removing the country’s remaining restrictions on gatherings and face masks.

Phakeng said that staff are now required to start engaging with their heads of department and line managers about their imminent return to campus. Upon agreement with line managers, staff may continue to work remotely in combination with in-person and on-campus activities.

Phakeng indicated that many staff members have already returned to on-campus and in-person engagements, while students will also continue to resume face-to-face learning.

She added that a teaching and learning framework is currently before the university’s senate and will soon be circulated to academics in all faculties for their input and comments.

“Indeed, the previous mode (of teaching) has affected the performance of our students. We’d like to go back to social interaction, but also digitally-enabled education because we have gotten so much stronger using our digital resources,” Phakeng said.

“We are a face-to-face university; we’re not an online or correspondence university and we’re coming back to function as one.”

“We have missed seeing you, your smiles, your energy, the hugs and uncontrollable laughter. I hope that we can come back to experiencing all of that, because that or part of that is what makes us a community,” she said.

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