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Academic exclusion

Overview

What is academic exclusion?

Academic exclusion is the process by which the university assesses the progress of a student towards the completion of their degree. At the end of every year, the courses you have passed in total (i.e. from the start of your degree) are counted up, and are compared to the table which says how many you must have passed in order to be able to continue. The requirements vary slightly for different degrees, but in most cases the Faculty of Humanities uses a very simple course count. Some programmes such as Fine Art have additional requirements in that you must have passed specific courses in order to be allowed to continue.

Exclusion rules are very generous. For example, as a first-year student in the general degree, you only need to have passed a total of three courses out of the eight you do in first year to be permitted to continue. Exclusion rules are also designed with the interests of the student in mind: if you are consistently failing a large number of courses, it becomes less and less likely that you will be able to complete the degree, and we are doing you no favours in allowing you to continue paying for courses you cannot pass.

Rules for exclusion are laid out in the Faculty Handbook in Section F21, from page 16. Make sure you look it up under the correct degree, as there are different rules for General Degrees and most named degrees, Extended Degrees, the Performer's Diploma in Theatre, the BA Fine Art, and degrees in the SA College of Music. The language in the handbook is a bit formal, however, and you may prefer to look up the outline of the rules for each degree linked at the top of this page.

How do I know if I've been excluded?

Remember that you can only be excluded at the end of the year. The only time you will be excluded at mid-year is if you were excluded at the end of the previous year, re-admitted on appeal and have a semester of probation.

The Faculty runs a very time-consuming and detailed process of assessing student results after the end-of-year examinations. You will know about your status in two ways:

  1. Your Peoplesoft unofficial transcript record will be updated to show a particular code for the end of the year. This could be:

    • Academically eligible to continue. You have passed enough courses that we are happy with your progress, and you may continue next year as normal.

    • Concession (FEC) to continue. You have been granted a concession to continue: you have passed just enough courses to be safe from exclusion, but we are a bit worried about your progress, and will send you a cautionary letter to warn you that you need to improve your performance or you may be in danger of exclusion in future years. (FEC is the Faculty Education Committee, which is the body which is effectively giving you permission to continue with a warning).

    • Status pending: continue if SUPP/DE exams passed. You have a mark or marks outstanding - a supplementary or deferred exam, or a Summer Term course. Your total course count for your degree is close enough to the exclusion borderline that the outcome of this exam or course will make the difference between readmission and exclusion. If you pass the exam(s) or course, you will be permitted to continue with an FEC caution (see above). If you fail the exam(s) or course, you will be academically excluded (see below). Students in the "Status Pending" category are expected to submit appeals against exclusion provisionally, in case the outstanding mark is a fail. If you pass your appeal form will be discarded as it will be unnecessary.

    • Readmission refused on academic grounds. You have failed to pass enough courses to reach the minimum required number, and we will not permit you to register next year.

  2. If you have been excluded or have fallen into the FEC category above (i.e. you are re-admitted, but with a caution, because you are only just above the minimum number of courses and we're a bit worried about your progress) you will receive a letter informing you of your status.

What can I do about being excluded?

For a start, DON'T PANIC! Exclusion does not have to be a door slammed in your face, and there are various things you can do about it.

  1. Think very hard about what your lack of success actually means. You may well have failed courses because horrible things have happened in your life, because you've been ill or depressed or in difficulties of some sort outside the classroom. In this case you are in a good position to appeal. However, your failed courses may be because you are not finding your feet in university study: because the courses do not speak to you, or the way we expect you to learn and work does not ask you to use your strengths. University study is not the only way to become the qualified, competent, successful person you want to be. It may be that your abilities are more practical or creative than academic, and a different kind of learning may allow you to excel in a way that academic learning does not. Consider these possibilities; go and see the Careers Office, and make an appointment with a guidance counsellor who can help you strategise to find the career, and the kind of further education, which best suits you and your goals.

  2. See a student advisor. This is a sensible thing to do at any point in the year if you are worried you may be excluded at the end of the year, but are not sure if you have passed the relevant number of courses. You can see an advisor in their scheduled times, which are available here (or see link in the right-hand sidebar). They will be able to count up your courses, check whether you are in danger of exclusion, and advise you on strategies to pass as many courses as possible. They will also advise you about the UCT services which are available to help you negotiate your problems, and other avenues of study if you strongly feel that UCT is not for you.

  3. Appeal against your exclusion. If you are excluded, you have the right to present evidence and a motivation to the relevant committee, arguing that there were special circumstances which make this exclusion unfair. The Readmission Appeals Committee (RAC) meets in January of every year, and considers the applications for re-admission of a large number of students.

    If you are excluded, you will be sent a copy of the appeal form, which is long and detailed; you can also find a copy on the UCT Readmissions site, here. Your lack of success may be because of horrible things happening in your life - illness, psychological problems, family problems, the death of someone close to you. The form requires you to tell the committee about the issue, and you will also need to submit supporting documentation from doctors, psychologists, etc, and show that whatever the problem is has been addressed and you have a good chance of success in your next year of study.

    RAC submissions are confidential, so you need not worry about anyone else finding out about your problems: they will be kept confidential within the committee. Once again, however, you may find it useful to talk to a curriculum advisor when you fill in the form. Your appeal to the committee is only in writing: you will not be asked to speak to the committee personally, so it is important that you include all the relevant documentation in your submission. You do, however, have the right to request an SRC member to speak on your behalf in the committee, and it is usually a good idea to tick the box which asks if you want this: they will be an advocate on your behalf, and will speak from a student's perspective in arguing your case. If you choose not to tick that box, they will leave the room for the discussion of your case, so your appeal will remain confidential.

  4. Strategise a return to UCT in future years. There are also ways of returning to UCT in future years even if your appeal is not successful, or you decide not to appeal. The best way to return is to demonstrate what we call academic rehabilitation. If you leave UCT and spend at least another year at another university, and are successful in those studies (you pass all the courses in a full academic load well, i.e. with marks in the 60s rather than 50s), you are in a good position to re-apply for a place at UCT to finish your original degree. We will usually be able to transfer credits from your other institution towards your UCT degree, if they are in relevant subjects, so you need not even lose time.

    All we are looking for is evidence that you have overcome the problems which prevented your success when you were first registered at UCT, and a successful record elsewhere is very good evidence of that. Other institutions tend to have lower entrance requirements than UCT does, so even after exclusion from UCT it's often perfectly possible to be given a place at UNISA or another institution.

Rules for academic exclusion:

The rules for exclusion are laid out in the Faculty of Humanities Handbook, from page 16 onwards, section F21. Different rules apply to different degrees, so make sure you check the right section.