Back in the day when I was young and the first in my family to own a cellphone, the University of Cape Town’s term was about a week and half longer either side of the year.
So you might say, who cares?
Well in a country with such a low matric pass rate and a high first year dropout rate, having such short University terms in which to complete work might not be such a good idea.
A few years ago, the middle of the year UCT holiday was extended from two or three weeks to six weeks. This allows lecturers longer research time. It also makes it easier for them to attend conferences when colleagues in the Northern hemisphere are on summer holidays. It benefits University staff especially those with high research burdens and journal articles to publish.
But students- many from disadvantaged backgrounds have to complete more work in less time. It adds more pressure and means students are expected to be good at meeting crazy deadlines and completing assignments at speed. For those who struggle or who have weaker English when they first enter University, the extreme time pressure is just another obstacle for them.
In 2009 the Wits student newspaper revealed that 50% of all first year engineering students fail.
I would think Universities would try to help as many students from previously disadvantaged schools get through without dropping out. Lengthening terms would make life a lot easier for them. But terms are short and students sometimes have to hand in up to four assignments in a week. My brother, at UCT, just wrote three tests in one week. And another three the following week.
BTW when students fail first year, many repeat it the following year in another faculty adding to funding burdens and increasing the overcrowding so common at Universities.
Virgin’s entrepreneur extraordinaire Sir Richard Branson argues that University years can be a waste of time due to the lengthy holidays. Students get about 6 months of the year off in SA. And in the six months they do study, they cram in a whole syllabus. Seems ridiculous.
Back in my day things were better…