Which universities are open and which are not

A look at 26 tertiary institutions

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Photo of UCT
Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

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Updated 9 November, 16:40: We tried to find out from each institution if exams are proceeding, and if there are currently disruptions. The lack of information for some institutions below is a result of their failure to respond to our queries. This is likely our last major update to this article. 

  • UCT: Exams proceeding. No disruptions following agreement between management and protesting groups. Health Science Faculty exams postponed till 2017. 
  • Wits: Exams proceeding. No recent reports of disruptions.
  • Stellenbosch: Exams proceeding. No disruptions.
  • University of Pretoria: Exams on track. No disruptions.
  • NMMU: Exams will be held from 24 Nov to 14 December. No disruptions currently.
  • Rhodes University: Exams proceeding as planned. Some protest action continuing.
  • University of Johannesburg: Exams scheduled for 19 November.
  • CPUT: From CPUT’s homepage on 8 November: “After receiving input from various stakeholders and conducting a thorough evaluation of all available facts and information, Senate yesterday unanimously decided that examinations should continue.” Exams taking place on a military base.
  • UKZN: Exams continuing. No disruptions currently. 
  • UWC: Exams taking place off-campus. Clashes between police and protesters earlier this week. 
  • Free State: Exams continuing. No disruptions currently.
  • WSU: We have struggled to get official comment, but according to the institution’s Facebook page, disruptions continue. It’s unclear if and when exams are taking place.
  • DUT: Exams proceeding as scheduled. No disruptions.
  • UNISA: No answer from the university, but we’ve received no recent reports of disruptions or delays.
  • Fort Hare: Exams proceeding.
  • Tshwane University of Technology: Exams extended by two weeks and now will start on 21 November. Some reports of disruptions.
  • Central University of Technology: Exams proceeding.
  • University of Limpopo: Exams proceeding. No disruptions.
  • Mangosuthu University of Technology: Exams proceeding. No disruptions.
  • Sol Plaatje: “Academic activities in all our programmes are in full swing after students agreed to continue with classes in order to complete the 2016 academic year. Academic staff and students have settled on a revised timetable that extends the teaching year to make up for the time lost during the protest action. The revised timetable also accommodates an examinations schedule that is expected to allow the university to submit final results to students by 15 December 2016.”
  • Vaal University of Technology: Couldn’t get an answer from the institution.
  • University of Mpumalanga: Couldn’t get an answer from the institution.
  • University of Zululand: Couldn’t get an answer from the institution.
  • University of Venda: Couldn’t get an answer from the institution.

Last updated 16:00, 25 October:

What’s apparent from the latest update is that Cape Town is the city most affected by protest action, with three of its universities (UCT, UWC and CPUT) in disarray. UCT, UWC, CPUT and NMMU appear to be the worst-affected institutions. Most other institutions are now running almost normally, albeit with ongoing protest action in many cases.

  • University of Cape Town: Face-to-face teaching suspended. Some faculties, e.g. health sciences, have deferred the academic year. Much confusion but exams officially taking place in November.
  • University Western Cape: All face-to-face classes suspended. Two Exam sessions created to choose from. 7 November 2016 - 9 December 2016 or 10 January 2017 - 10 February 2017.
  • CPUT: Classes remain suspended. Vice-Chancellor Dr Nevhutalu Prins placed on special leave. Assessments and contact classes to occur at the Wingfield Military Base.
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: Classes currently suspended.
  • Stellenbosch: Classes on-going. Exams have started.
  • Wits: Completely open, last few days of classes, and on-track for exams. 
  • University of Pretoria: Face to face classes suspended. Some classes to resume depending on notification from their faculty. Online alternatives used for teaching. Exams to start from 14 November to 3 December. 
  • Rhodes University: Face-to-face teaching finished on Friday 21 October. Exams underway. Protesting students tried to disrupt exams by setting off firecrackers and throwing stones at windows. Protesters also damaged computers where exams were meant to be taking place. The computers were replaced and exams are proceeding. 
  • University of Johannesburg: Classes on-going. 
  • UNISA: Unable to confirm but last report indicated open and normal operation.
  • Free State:  Open. (Yesterday there a march to the main building on campus yesterday to hand over memorandum about outsourcing.)
  • UKZN: Protest action yesterday at Pietermaritzburg campus but face-to-face teaching continuing and libraries open.
  • North-West University: Quiet since last week, exams already started on Potchefstroom campus.
  • Walter Sisulu University: Classes and exams on schedule.
  • Durban University of Technology: There have been no protests for two weeks and exams as well as tests are underway.
  • Fort Hare: Open (face-to-face teaching taking place and libraries open)
  • Tshwane University of Technology: Announced no fees increases for 2017. Classes to resume.
  • Central University of Technology: No face-to-face tuition. All classes are digital. Libraries and computer labs open for those who need facilities. 
  • University of Limpopo: Exams underway.
  • Mangosuthu university of Technology: Open. No protests.
  • University of Mpumalanga: Open. No protests.
  • University of Zululand: Open.


Up-to-date as of 4:30pm, 15 October

  • University of Cape Town: UCT will open on Monday 17 October, but face-to-face classes remain suspended. Instead: “All faculties and departments will ensure that the planned curriculum (i.e. what was to be delivered for this year) will be made available to students in alternative and mixed teaching modes to be determined by each faculty and department as per their specific needs.”
    Libraries will be open and Jammie shuttle will operate. Exams will run from 7 to 25 November.
  • Walter Sisulu University: Classes suspended on Friday 14 October at the Buffalo City Campus (we are not sure of the status of the Mthatha campus). Unclear if classes are restarting on Monday 17 October.

Up-to-date as of 5pm, 12 October.

  • Stellenbosch: There are protests but classes continuing.
  • Wits: Open. Widely publicised clashes between protesters and police on Monday. Some clashes on Tuesday. Much quieter on Wednesday, and classes are starting to become fuller.
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal: Academic activity is continuing on all campuses with some disruptions on the Howard College Campus.
  • University of Pretoria: Classes resumed Wednesday 12 October for some students required to complete academic activities. Students only allowed on campus if they are attending a specific class or activity. Some classes taking place online.
  • Rhodes: Protests continuing but university fully operational
  • University of Western Cape: Classes suspended until at least 14 October.
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology: Protest action, including buildings being burnt on both Cape Town and Bellville campuses on 11/12 October, have resulted in on-campus classes being suspended. 
  • University of Johannesburg: Protests continuing but university fully operational
  • UNISA: Fully operational
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: Closed. Management rescinded earlier decision to reopen today, citing security concerns
  • University of the Free State: Fully operational
  • University of Limpopo: No answer
  • North-West University: Clashes occurring daily between police and protesters on Mafikeng campus, but academic programme proceeding
  • University of Fort Hare: Classes suspended until further notice
  • University of Venda: Fully operational
  • Central University of Technology: Closed until 14 October
  • Tshwane University of Technology: Opened on 12 October but then protest action forced the institute to close again.
  • Sefako Makgatho: Closed Monday 10 October, reopened Tuesday 11 October, buildings burned

Thanks to Gareth Dawson for compiling the first version of the table.

Notes on every institution (last updated 9 October)

At the University of Cape Town, classes have been suspended. It is unclear when classes will resume. Vice-chancellor Max Price announced that UCT will be implementing an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission. It will focus on “the pressing issues that continue to divide us and are preventing the resumption of the academic programme”. This comes following calls from student protesters that the university should set up a “Shackville Truth and Reconciliation Commission”.

Members of UCT’s Health Sciences Faculty marching on 6 October.

The University of Witwatersrand will resume classes on Monday 10 October. On Friday 7 October the Wits Executive announced classes would be suspended on 10 October. It has now reversed that decision. Here is a statement released at Saturday night 8 October:


Dear Colleagues

The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand agreed that the University will reopen on Monday, 10 October 2016, to ensure the continuation of the learning, teaching, research and administrative activities of the University, and the successful completion of each individual student’s academic year.

This is for the benefit of all students – undergraduate and postgraduate, local and international, full-time and part-time and all staff – academic, professional, administrative and international. 

We are committed to completing the 2016 academic programme and to ensuring that examinations are written. Senate has approved a revised calendar for 2016, as well as developed contingency plans to ensure that examinations are written.

It is clear that everyone in the University community has the same goal – to work as a community to realise the goal of free, quality higher education. We firmly believe that this can be done at the same time as finishing the academic year. No student should see a year’s worth of work come to naught, along with the financial sacrifices that they, and their families have had to make.

We believe that this campaign has been strengthened by a collective commitment from the entire University community to seek meaningful and speedy ways to make university education accessible, but it is also clear that the majority of the University community and society at large desperately want to save the academic programme of the University. Our approach is to do both.

We call on all students, parents, staff and stakeholders to join us in this approach, to ensure that everyone has a chance to write, to pass, to create space for the next year of university intakes while at the same time giving equal priority to the broader political issues of funding and transformation.

The University has made several commitments in the last week:

1. The University has responded to the challenge led by students and made a commitment to joining the national call for free education. Read the draft declaration.

2. The University will hold a General Assembly once all constituencies agree on a unified stance around the issue.

We will continue to reach out to student leaders and channels remain open for other engagements but we cannot afford the ongoing loss of the academic programme.

The University will reopen but we are obliged to put in place the following conditions:

1. We fully support the right to peaceful protest. Students will be allowed to protest, but only in specific, identified areas. Large groups of people engaged in protest action will not be allowed to gather outside the designated areas.

2. We are all completely opposed to the intimidation of staff or students or the disruption of academic activities. As such, any person/s intimidating students to leave a classroom or building, or disrupting any University activity, may be suspended.

3. We are completely opposed to violent protest. As such, anyone carrying rocks, stones, weapons or any other items that can be used to destroy property or inflict harm, will immediately be disarmed, and may be suspended. Any person using items to deliberately conceal their identity, may be suspended.

4. Rigorous control of access to the University, including comprehensive and sporadic checks of all vehicles, including buses, will be implemented. All staff and students will be required to carry their access cards with them, as is the norm.

5. All persons arrested by the police may immediately be suspended.

6. All suspensions will immediately be processed for finalisation through disciplinary hearings.

We appeal to every student and staff member to please bear with us during this difficult week as we work towards getting the academic programme back on track, which is in the interest of every Wits student.

Our success can only be achieved if we all work together – we are stronger together.


8 OCTOBER 2016 (22:00)

This was the statement released on Friday 7 October:

Wits University statement on 7 October 2016.

At the University of the Western Cape classes have been suspended. Classes were supposed to restart on Monday 10 October but on Saturday 8 October UWC announced that the suspension will continue.

At the Cape Peninsula University of Technology classes have been suspended until further notice following student protests but staff are expected to return to work today (6 October). Protests continued at the Bellville campus. Today a special university stakeholder engagement meeting was set to take place where it was hoped that “an amicable solution to the current impasse will be found”. 

Here are some of the views of CPUT protesters:

Interviews compiled by David Doochin 

The University of Johannesburg‘s campuses are open. Some lectures have been cancelled due to protest action, but the vast majority are continuing.

At Northwest University students are currently on holiday. Before the holiday, staff at the Mafikeng Campus did not come to work due to student protests. The Vaal Triangle campus closed earlier than scheduled for students who began their holiday on 26 September. When classes resume on Monday 10 October, the university plans to operate as normal.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal is open and operating. However there has been much conflict and the Law Library was burnt a few weeks ago.

The University of Free State closed early on 28 September for the holiday that was scheduled to begin on 3 October. This was in response to students protests. Classes are scheduled to resume on Monday 10 October with the university operating as normal.

The University of Limpopo is open and operating.

At Rhodes University protests have been ongoing since 28 September. Many classes have been disrupted, but the university is operating. 

Stellenbosch University is open and operating.

The University of Pretoria is on vacation, taken early because of protests. Lectures were scheduled to resume on Monday 10 October, but on Friday 7 October the university announced that it is suspending the academic programme, to continue a “process of structured engagements with staff and students to address the call for free education”.

Walter Sisulu University campuses are open and operating.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is currently shut down. There is no clarity on when operations will resume, but this will possibly be sometime next week.

Earlier this week, students demanded that NMMU reopen.

Classes at Sol Plaatjie University have been suspended since 22 September due to student protests. The institution intends to open on Monday 10 October. 

The University of South Africa’s (UNISA) Cape Town campus was never affected by student protests. Pretoria was affected but it is open.

The University of Fort Hare is closed. There is ongoing court action between protesters and the university. Lectures are scheduled to resume next week.

GroundUp was unable to contact a representative from the University of Venda. The Facebook page states that lectures will resume on Monday 10 October, but that staff are to be back on campus from Wednesday 5 October.

GroundUp was also unable to contact anyone from the Tshwane University of Technology. A notice on their website dated 28 September says that “due to ongoing disruptions at its campuses, the official extended recess period will be applicable to all TUT campuses” and that the 4th term will commence on 10 October.

At the University of Zululand GroundUp was also unable to reach any representative. According to Business Day, staff are on strike.

Vaal University of Technology is open and operating.

The Central University of Technology is open and operating.

The Durban University of Technology open and operating but exams have been moved back by two weeks because of protest action.

Mangosuthu University of Technology is open and operating. 

The University of Mpumalanga is open and operating. 

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (formerly Medunsa) is open and operating, although there have been some “disturbances” (word used by official we spoke to. The university also has a court order against protesters dated 4 October.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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