The CIEE Arts and Sciences study abroad program at the University of Cape Town (UCT) provides you with a range of academic and intellectual experiences that enable you to reflect upon the complexities and challenges facing the new South Africa. Through integration in local communities, you’ll become a participant in, rather than a mere observer of, this dynamic and evolving environment. Through this process, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of social relations within South Africa.
Study abroad in Cape Town and you will:
Choose from a wide range of course offerings at the University of Cape Town in commerce, engineering, humanities, and science
Immerse yourself in the culture through a township homestay, the CIEE community service program, and independent study opportunities
Live, interact, and study with African students in a society in transition
Visit local theater, music, and dance productions, museums, rural cooperatives, and cricket and rugby matches
The CIEE Difference
In addition to independent research options and a Seminar on Living and Learning in South Africa, you’ll also have access to a full range of courses through the University of Cape Town. Subjects and departments include: Afrikaans and Netherlandic studies; Economics; Political Studies; and Environmental and Geographical Sciences.
The Cape Town Arts and Sciences study abroad program is supplemented by field trips and excursions to various points of interest in Cape Town and in the Western Cape Province. Previous field trips and excursions have included the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Flats, Robben Island, Newlands Grounds to watch cricket or rugby, and a whale-watching excursion. The comprehensive cultural program also involves visits to local theater, music, and dance productions; museum tours; and rural cooperatives.
The program covers the cost of participants’ membership in up to three social, sport, or cultural clubs at the University of Cape Town. Many students have found that cultural immersion is made easier when they join a club or society on the UCT campus.
A three-day homestay with a local family in the “colored” community of Ocean View is also included in the cultural study abroad program. This experience will expose you to positive images of previously disadvantaged groups of people in South Africa, including the “colored” and Muslim communities.
The Community Service Program provides you with volunteer opportunities in the historically disadvantaged communities around Cape Town. Past activities have included tutoring in local schools, assisting at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, working on AIDS and HIV projects, and caring for children with mental problems. Many students rate their volunteer experiences as one of the highlights of the overall CIEE study abroad program.
Total contact hours for each course vary, and recommended credit for the semester is 16-18 semester/24-27 quarter hours and for the academic year is 32-36 semester/48-52 quarter hours.
The University of Cape Town follows the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) credit system. Per this system, CIEE requires all study abroad students to take between 70 and 82 HEQF credits per semester. Students are required to take 3-4 courses to maintain a full course load. At least one of these courses must have specific African content or offer a distinctive African perspective in their area of interest. Courses may be taken in all University of Cape Town faculties excluding health science. Students may also take the CIEE Seminar on Living and Learning in addition to their normal course load.
About Cape Town
Situated on the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town is a vibrant multicultural city with a rich selection of day and night activities. Water sports, mountaineering, nightclubs, and restaurants are readily available. The city is also a microcosm of the challenges facing many African countries in transition: how to successfully operate within a global economy while grappling with the vast socio-economic inequalities that are the legacy of the colonial and apartheid past.
Where You’ll Study
The University of Cape Town
Established as the South African College in 1829, the University of Cape Town is internationally recognized as one of Africa’s leading research universities. Its campus has sweeping lawns, pathways, trees, ponds, and waterfalls that combine with attractive physical structures and extensive playing fields to create a pleasant study environment. A range of commercial, medical, recreational, and sporting facilities is available on campus including a swimming pool, gymnasium, basketball, tennis, badminton and squash courts, and a weight room.
Housing & Meals
Housing is included in the study abroad program fee. Students have several choices:
UCT Residence Hall—Students live in apartment-style UCT residence halls with South African or other African students. Students have small single rooms and share kitchen and other facilities with two or three students. All of the apartment residents share basic cleaning duties. Students are responsible for their own meals which are not included in the program fee. Students can prepare their own meals or eat at establishments on or off campus. Please note that amenities are more basic in the UCT residences, but students looking for an immersion study abroad experience will enjoy interacting with South African and other African students. Shuttle buses link UCT residence halls with all UCT campuses, a five-minute ride.
Off-Campus Houses or Apartments—Students share off-campus houses or apartments near campus with fellow CIEE study abroad program participants and local students. Students have small single rooms (some houses have a small number of double rooms) and share kitchen and other facilities with five to 10 students (fewer in apartments). All of the residents of the houses or apartments share basic cleaning duties. Students are responsible for their own meals which are not included in the program fee. Students can prepare their own meals or eat at establishments on or off campus.
Homestay with South African Family—This option provides an excellent opportunity for immersion into the local culture and is strongly recommended for students who wish to take full advantage of their study abroad experience in South Africa. Breakfast and dinner are provided during the week. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided on weekends. Lunches during the week are not included in the program fee and are the responsibility of the student. Since homestay families are located throughout the Cape Town area, students are required in most cases to utilize public transportation to and from UCT, a 20 to 30 minute commute.
CIEE Resident Assistants
Resident assistants (RAs) are a dedicated group of UCT students who assist CIEE students during orientation and throughout the semester. Through ongoing interaction with these local students, CIEE participants are able to meet local South African and international students and learn firsthand about student life in Cape Town. These local students, recruited and trained by CIEE, are an important part of the CIEE student experience. RAs assist with cultural excursions and live with CIEE students in the UCT residence halls and off-campus houses and apartments, providing a reliable local peer network and helping CIEE students to integrate into the local student community.
The rich academic program, established in 1998, allows study abroad students to pursue their own academic studies while providing firsthand knowledge of contemporary South African society. Students are required to enroll in at least one course with specific African content or one that offers a distinctive African perspective in their area of interest. Courses may be taken in all University of Cape Town faculties excluding health sciences.
Students participate in the cultural program and are strongly encouraged to take part in community service. Students should develop a program that complements the requirements of their home institution and meets their own personal needs.
CIEE study abroad students are taught alongside University of Cape Town (UCT) undergraduates and are required to undertake a full program of courses, including all assignments and written examinations. Teaching methods at the University normally involve a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, and, in the sciences, laboratory classes.
The system is geared toward the scholar who is motivated, self-sufficient, and deeply interested in the subject matter. Participants may notice striking differences between their home educational system and the UCT system. The University allows students greater responsibility and initiative in a less structured environment. Courses may involve relatively few contact hours each week, since they are intended as a starting point and focus for a great deal of individual study.
Class sizes are very big at UCT and range from 100–300 people. UCT has both class lectures and tutorials (sections). The sizes of the tutorials are much smaller, ranging from 20–40 students. Students generally do not have to buy books for their classes, as many lecturers provide a course reader. This reader has all the reference materials for the class.
The CIEE Study Center follows the University’s calendar with additional time for orientation at the beginning of the semester. The South African academic year runs from early February through late November with two semesters. Many University of Cape Town courses are year-long courses and run from the U.S. spring through the U.S. fall semester. Students on the academic or calendar year program have a break between semesters; they can remain in or move into off-campus housing. Meals are not included during this time.
Nature of Classes
Participants enroll directly in host university courses and take classes with CIEE, South African, and other international students. The CIEE Seminar on Living and Learning in Cape Town is for CIEE students only.
Grading for University of Cape Town courses is by continuous assessment, but anywhere from 50 to 75% of the final grade is based on the final examination, which is conducted by outside examiners.
Grades are on the basis of 100. A “First” is equivalent to 75% and above. Very few students achieve this mark. Students who receive marks that fall between 70 and 74% are awarded the grade of “Upper Second.” A good number of students achieve this mark. The next mark is “Lower Second” with a range of 60 to 69%. The majority of students achieve this mark. Students with 50 to 59% receive a “Third” (passing grade). Students achieving a mark below 50% receive a “Fail.” Grades and credits are converted to the U.S. system according to a standard scale.
Language of Instruction
All courses are taught by faculty from the University of Cape Town. The CIEE Seminar on Living and Learning in Cape Town is taught by the CIEE resident director and assistant resident director.