Home > Academic life

Academic information

Library learning lounge


How many courses should I take?

As a rule of thumb, SSA students need to take a minimum of three courses per semester.

This is based on the regulations of South Africa’s National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which ensures high-quality tertiary education to students at both public and private institutions. According to these regulations, students should take between 72 and 90 credits per semester to be considered as having a “full academic load”. This is equivalent to the credits typically earned by a degree-seeking student in a semester.

When choosing your courses you will note each course in the handbook indicates the credit value. You need to ensure that the credit values of the courses you are taking add up to at least 72 credits for a semester.

See example from humanities handbook below:


Please note: the transfer of credit is always at the discretion of your home institution or centralised programme. Usually, students discuss their course choices with their home university before enrolling at UCT, to be sure they are undertaking appropriate courses and can transfer sufficient credit. Some home universities may use a ‘learning agreement’ to record students’ choices. Remember to keep your home university informed of the courses you register for on arrival at UCT, and to communicate any changes to them directly. Bear in mind that your course load and pass rate may affect your financial aid package at home. It’s always best to check these details with your home university. For more information about course options, please visit the choose your courses page.


Grades at UCT

UCT does not work on the United States grade point average system. Our grading system more closely resembles the British system in which grades are classified as first, upper second, lower second and third.

Grades are awarded at the end of the semester for individual courses and are usually based on the final examination as well as continuous assessment through the semester (assignments, tutorials and tests).

See UCT’s recommended grade conversation table below, which we issue with your final transcript. This is intended as a guide to your home university. Please do note that grade conversion varies from oneuniversity to another. It is up to your home institution to convert your grades into their system.

UCT grades

Approximate UCT grade equivalent

75 - 100% First class


70 - 74% Second class (division one/upper second)


60  - 69% Second class (division two/lower second)


50 - 59% Third class


0 - 49% Fail



DPR: Duly Performed certificate refused (not permitted to write examination)


AB: Absent from examination


INC: Incomplete



Exams at UCT

Exams at UCT

Your final grade will be awarded through assessment of a combination of essays, assignments, tests, class participation/presentation and exams. Exams usually count for a significant proportion of your final course result. Your lecturers will explain the system for their course at the outset.

Exam timetables

Exams are written in the ‘exam period’, which is set annually. You will find these dates here. The final exam timetable is set centrally by the university and is not flexible. It is therefore important to arrange your travel plans around the examination period. Your last exam will likely be your last day of term, so, if possible, only make travel arrangements once your exam timetable is set and you know when your last exam is.

If you need to make travel plans before the exam timetable is released, it is best to err on the side of caution and only make travel arrangements for after the examination period has ended. If you need to make plans for an internship programme or you have any queries regarding suitable dates to leave, please check the calendar (above) or contact your SSA officer at IAPO (email

Permission to write exams

In order to write exams at UCT, students need to have met the basic minimum requirements set by each department. This usually involves a certain percentage of class attendance, assignment/essay submission and other course work throughout the semester. Duly performed (DP) is the recognition that you have completed these minimum requirements to write your exam.

Each course has different DP requirements, which will be explained at the start of your course, on handouts, or on UCT’s online portal, Vula. Details are also available in your faculty handbook. If you have any questions, chat to your lecturer or course convener.

Students who have met all the requirements are granted a duly performed (DP) certificate, which means they have permission to write the final exam for the end-of-semester assessment.

Students who do not qualify for a DP certificate will find their names placed on a DPR list (‘duly performed certificate – refused’) and signposted on the relevant noticeboards in the academic department offering the course. If your name is on this DPR list, it means that you will not be allowed to write the final examination.

Missing an exam due to illness and injury

If you cannot write an examination for a valid reason owing to illness or injury, or must leave the venue during the examination because you have become ill, you must report to the Student Wellness Centre immediately for assessment. You should not see another doctor for this purpose.

You will then need to apply for a deferred exam. Contact Sharon Turner at IAPO as soon as possible so that we can assist you in your application.

Extra time on tests or examinations

Students with a physical or learning disability may be given permission to receive extra time on their UCT tests and exams, as well as access to certain resources to assist with their physical or learning needs.

If you qualify for extended time at your home institution, please bring proof of this from your Registrar’s office. This document is usually known as your ‘accommodations letter’ and lists the range of accommodations for which you qualify. In addition to the accommodation letter, you will be required to submit the relevant medical supporting documentation. In the case of a physical condition, we will require the full medical report, detailing your physical condition.  In the case of a specific learning disability, we will require a psychometric assessment report, issued by the clinical psychologist who diagnosed your learning disability. UCT will accept the same medical and/or psychometric reports that you submitted when you applied for extended time, and any other accommodations, at your home university.

To apply for extra time, you will need to visit the Disability Services Office in person once you arrive, and register with their office. 

The deadline to register with Disability Services is:

20 March for the first semester (Feb-June)

20 August for the second semester (July-November)

Getting approval for the various accommodations can take time so you should not leave it to the last minute. You will need to visit the Disability Services office in person to make the application, it cannot be done on your behalf by your home institution or programme provider.

Once you have registered with the Disability Service, you will need to make an appointment with the relevant health professional. If you are making application for accommodations based on a physical disability, you will need to make an appointment with the medical practitioner at the UCT Student Wellness Centre. The disability service can help you with this. If you are making application for accommodations based on a learning disability, you will need to make an appointment to be assessed by the clinical psychologist at the Disability Service office. Appointments can be made when you visit the Disability Service to complete the Registration Form. This cannot be done via email.

The maximum additional time given at UCT is an extra 15 minutes for every one hour given in an exam. So students writing a three-hour exam will receive up to an extra 45 minutes.

For more information on how to apply for extra time and other accommodations, see the following documents:

Information for international students applying for extra time

Process for applying for concessions

The deadline to submit the required supporting documentation is:

23 April for the first semester (Feb-June)

23 September for the second semester (July-November)

For more information see the guides below:

Late withdrawal from courses

Please do pay special attention to the ‘change of curriculum’ dates shared with you during the orientation period and sign posted on the faculty notice boards.

UCT does not allow students to withdraw from a course in the last few weeks before the exam period. If you have not withdrawn from a course within the given time frame, and do not write the exam, you will fail the exam.

Jagger LIbrary UCT
Jagger Special Collections Library at UCT


For more information

Should you have any queries about academic matters during your time at UCT you can consult the SSA Officers at IAPO. 

You should also contact your Faculty Office directly in connection with withdrawing from courses or changing course registrations.