The list: Opening dates for South African universities in 2021

As the second wave of COVID-19 infections sweeps across South Africa, plans to reopen tertiary education institutions may be affected. Here’s what you need to know so far. 

Read more: Here’s What You Need To Know About NSFAS 2021 

Read more: The list: Important dates for South African universities in 2021


For UNISA students, a booking has to be made in advance if you need to access any UNISA campus. All registrations for 2021 must be submitted online. All registration needs to take place before March 12. All assignment due dates for semester modules for the 2021 academic year will be revised with submission due dates scheduled between May and September. There will be one examination period for the 2021 academic year. All undergraduate and postgraduate diploma examinations will be written in October and November 2021. Honours examinations will be written in January/February 2022.


At CPUT, students including first-year students are advised not to travel to campuses for face-to-face assistance from staff. The institution will only be accepting online registrations and queries with no walk-ins allowed at all. Returning students will receive update notifications via SMS or email from their faculty with any updates. Registration will continue until March in phases.


VUT re-opened for administrative personnel and duties on January 4. All students requiring practical training will be allowed to return to campus. They will be issued with special permits. Residences will open for student accommodation. Registration is scheduled for March 01-12 once matric results have been released. Blended learning will be offered for all students.


SPU reopened on January 11 for all its staff members. The 2021 academic calendar was adjusted for the late release of the matric results. First-year students’ orientation will take place during the last week of February and beginning of March. Classes for all students are scheduled for March 23. The university will be taking a blended approach. 


At NMU, university activities resumed on January 4. Only students with official permits will be allowed to return to campus. Residences opened on January 10. Returning students had to quarantine for 10 days in their residences. Academic activities resumed on January 11 with a blended learning.


At TUT online, multimodal teaching and learning will remain the preferred mode for the first quarter of 2021. The university is in the process of negotiating with service providers to ensure that data is uploaded on student accounts over the coming weekends to enable connectivity. Students who need access to the campus were allowed to return to their campuses from January 8. Examinations that were disrupted as well as re-examinations started on January 11. The academic year for students completing the second semester of 2020 will end on March 31. Lectures for the 2021 academic year for all students will commence on April 12. Online registration will take place for all students online.


UL never closed administratively. They are rounding up the 2020 academic year. Assessments would be concluded by the end of January and all other related activities for 2020 Academic Year will be concluded by February 26. The 2021 academic year will begin on March 01. Registrations will take place from March 3-20. The process will be online Lectures will begin from March 23. A multi-modal teaching and learning approach will be followed.


MUT opened on January 11 for learning and teaching. The first-year students will finalise assessments onJanuary 11-15 and thereafter leave for home. Third and fourth year students will return on January 20 to prepare for examinations which commence on January 2. The management has encouraged the continued use of blended learning to conclude the remainder of the 2020 academic year.


UFH opened January 4 for administrative purposes and to welcome back residences students who are still continuing with their 2020 academic year. It will be concluded at the end of February.  The 2021 academic year will start on March 15. Online registration will commence from March 1. All engagements, including venue-based lectures are still prohibited. Teaching and learning will be virtual.


NWU opened on January 4 for administrative purposes. The 2020 academic year will be finalised on January 15. Classes for returning students are expected to start on February 15 and March 17 for first-year students. Returning students started registering online from January 18. Registration for first-year students is from March 8-10. NWU will also be adopting a blended approach to teaching-learning (what the NWU refers to as a “limited contact teaching-learning modality”).


At UJ academic activities for senior students are on February 15 instead of 1 February. This is two weeks later than normally planned. The start of academic activities for first year students is on March 8. Registration for first-year students commences on February 23 and closes on March 5. All  registrations are done online and off-campus.


Univen re-opened on January 4for and only first level students are on campus. Other categories of students are continuing with remote learning to conclude the 2020 academic year on February 28. The 2021 academic year is planned to commence on March 01.


UFS opened on January 4 for administrative purposes. The academic programme for returning students will start on March 1 and on March 15 for first-year students. Endorsed by the Council on Higher Education, UFS are to continue with an online/blended learning and teaching approach during the first semester for first-year and returning students. [Certain classes will be presented online, some in contact or face-to-face mode, and others a combination of contact and online] The registration process for all learners will take place online. Registration for faculty of health sciences students will take place from January 11-22. Other faculties will register from February 8-26. First year students will register from March 1-13. 


At UP, only students and staff who have been identified by their faculty will be allowed to return to campus and to residences. From January 4-8 special permits were issued. Registration for all students will take place online. For first-year students it will commence on March 1 while registration for returning students opened on January 5. Lectures are expected to start on March 15. 


At UWC the university reopened on January 4. The academic year is due to start on March 8 and no delays are anticipated. On January 6 a catch-up period for the 2020 academic year resumed. All registration and orientation activities will take place online. 


Classes at Stellenbosch are scheduled to resume on March 15 and the university opened on January 4. Online registration has been in place at the university for many years now and this will continue in 2021. The university wants to resume in-class lectures and students returning to residences – within the constraints of COVID-19. They will be pursuing blended learning through contact teaching augmented by online learning. If the current restrictions continue, Stellenbosch will continue with online learning. 


Registration at Wits will take place online. First-year students will register from February 25 to March 4. Returning undergraduates will register from January 5 to February 25. Classes are due to begin on March 8 for undergraduate students and February 22 for postgraduate students. Wits University has also adopted a blended learning approach. At the moment residences are open for students writing deferred and supplementary exams. Residences will re-open for new students from February 27 and for returning students on March 4. 


At DUT, academic activities resumed on January 4. The university is currently completing the 2020 academic year through multi-modal online teaching, learning and assessments. For the 2021 year, all new and returning students will need to register online. No walk-in registration will be permitted. Only students who require access to campus for practical assessments and laboratory work will be issued with special permits. The second semester of the 2020 academic year will end on January 15 with assessments to be concluded by January 29. 


At UKZN, the proposed January 4 reopening was postponed till January 18. The 2021 registration processes will commence on January 18 through online registration from remote locations. There will be no registration services and/or registration assistance available on campus. All academic activities will remain online, and data will continue to be provided as before. The college of health sciences students will be advised by their department of their prioritised return. All non-essential services staff will continue to work remotely.


At UCT, first-time students are scheduled to register from March 1. Returning students will register from January 20. Different cohorts will use different ways of physically distanced registration and are scheduled in different timeframes. The academic year is supposed to begin on March 15. UCT will be pursuing physical distancing learning. They expect all students to be in Cape Town when the year starts. All undergraduate students will be learning online except in the case where practicals are needed. Residence space will be allocated according to the existing policy, which gives priority to minors, first-year and financial-aid students. There will be no shared accommodation. 

This list will be updated as more information is received from other institutions. 

Image via the University of the Witwatersrand