Cape Town – The University of Cape Town may have to close for the year if ongoing Fees Must Fall protests last longer than three weeks, Vice Chancellor Max Price said on Wednesday.

The academic year could still be completed if classes resumed on October 3, but it would be disastrous if classes remained suspended beyond that, he told reporters.

“We’ve made a plan so that if we only start on Monday, everything would have been pushed two weeks later, but we can still finish the year.

“The key problem is we will not have graduation ceremonies this year. Those will take place in June 2017.”

If the shutdown continued a week beyond October 3, teaching and writing of exams would have to be done on weekends and during the December holidays.

“And if it goes a month, we cannot complete the programme this year, and we may have to shut down for the rest of the year.”

The university is currently in its second week of suspended classes.

‘It’s new territory’

This was the worst case scenario, and the university was “not there yet”, he said. Theoretically, the university would then finish the 2016 year in the first semester of 2017.

“It’s never been done. It’s new territory. The logical thing to do would be to then start the new intake of students as soon as the older students finish, perhaps in April.”

Price was still hopeful that the academic year could be completed. Students would not be expected to pay extra to complete the year.

The university would not be the only institution affected by the delay in the academic programme, he said.

UCT provided 400 of the 2 400 health sciences graduates countrywide each year.

“The health service is absolutely dependent on these junior doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists etc. The interns of the previous year will have left.

“There’ll be a serious risk of a public health services collapse if those graduates cannot start on January 1.”

Vice chancellors to meet

Students that needed to sit for independent examinations, such as accountants and lawyers, would not be able to complete their qualification in time to start working, paying off loans, and supporting their families.

“The ones who suffer most are the ones from the lowest-income families. Students from high-income families can survive for a few more months. They can live at home.

“It’s the students who are indebted and have job promises who will suffer most if we do not finish at the end of the year.”

Price would meet other vice chancellors this week to discuss the issue.

He hoped to speak Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande after a university memorandum was handed to the department outside Parliament on Friday.

Source: News24