UCT admissions: Race will still be considered

The University of Cape Town says its admissions policy is concerned with attracting the most talented as well as promoting social justice. (Madelene Cronjé, MG)

The University of Cape Town says its admissions policy is concerned with attracting the most talented as well as promoting social justice. (Madelene Cronjé, MG)

Race will still be considered in a proposed student admissions policy but as one of many factors to determine disadvantage, UCT said this week.

Parental levels of education, the kind of school the applicant attended, and their home language would also be considered, deputy vice-chancellor Crain Soudien said.

“We believe that these factors are important for us to work with when we accept a student into UCT. They do, moreover, relate directly to the way in which ‘race’ worked during and even after apartheid.” 

Soudien’s response was posted on the university’s Facebook page on Wednesday after UCT student representative council member Ramabina Mahapa posted an open letter the same day. The letter was addressed to vice-chancellor Max Price and Soudien responded because Price was apparently out of town.

Mahapa had said: “I strongly disagree with your notion that there is a pool of black students at UCT who are no longer significantly disadvantaged and no longer need affirmative action.” He argued that so-called “privileged blacks” had had to face institutional racism among other things at their former high schools.
“The institutional culture of those former model C schools is still such that it subjugates the talents, self-esteem and self-image of the black and coloured learners.”

Colonialism and oppression
Following the letter, the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) on Thursday noted its disappointment at its understanding of the proposed policy. HETN spokesperson Hendrick Makaneta said some race groups seemed to be very excited and eager to believe that black students were no longer affected by the history of colonialism and oppression. 

Soudien said the university had held fast to certain principles in formulating an alternative admissions model. The first principle was that it wanted to attract the most talented students. “We are concerned to produce a new generation of professionals, leaders, intellectuals, political actors and analysts who are more demographically representative of the population, as this is how a country grows.” 

The university was also concerned with social justice as it affected the individual and their originating community. “We, therefore, need to have an approach which will acknowledge those circumstances which may impede opportunities for the individual and those which operate at a broader social level and are responsible for either discriminating against a group of people or advantaging them,” Soudien said. 

“Our redress policies must, therefore, be sensitive to both the individual and group experience.” 

Lastly, the university believed the education of all students benefited from diversity in the classroom and across the campus. 

The university stated that Price held consultations on the proposed policy with staff and students this year. 

The proposed policy would be discussed in a university senate meeting on Friday. If the senate voted in favour of this proposal, it would go before council on June 14. If the new policy was approved by both bodies, it would take effect for the new incoming cohort of students for 2016. – Sapa

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