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Completing the 2020 academic year, while preparing to start the new one in mid-March 2021, in the midst of a pandemic is a complex and multi-layered undertaking.  The University is confident, however, that it will achieve both, and be ready to virtually welcome up to 6 500 new students.

This communication seeks to offer a broad overview of what is in place to this end through the action plans of various multi-disciplinary teams at the University, including the Coronavirus Task Team (CTT).

Safety First

As with all efforts to date, the principle of working or studying remotely where this is possible, remains in place in order to keep on-campus numbers to a minimum and thereby reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

This is why the University has systematically:

  • Increased its support for online learning with the provision of laptops, data and access to WiFi
  • Improved its COVID-19 surveillance measures with better monitoring at campus entrances, other key access points and with all academic mask-to-mask engagements, including exams
  • Introduced additional psycho-social support for all students 
  • Automated more services to reduce mask-to-mask interactions, and
  • Produced a list per academic programme of the learning method for each, for semester one.

Study Delivery Differs from Programme to Programme

A full break-down of the study delivery for each programme has been made available to every student.

In general, some programmes will be fully online, while others will be a blend of content taught online and experiential learning (e.g. lab and studio work, practical sessions, and clinical training) being mask-to-mask on campus or in the workplace.  Where a programme delivers learning online, students do not have to come onto campus for the first semester.  This means that these students can learn remotely (e.g. from home or a student residence) and they will be provided with learning and psychosocial support.

Online Learning Requirements and Support

Given the lessons of 2020, the University now knows how critical it is for those students whose programme allows them to learn online, to have the following:

  • A laptop or desktop computer
  • A smartphone
  • Reasonably stable connectivity, and
  • A place to study to effectively learn online from home (remotely).

Students who do not have access to all of the above are encouraged to be in Port Elizabeth or George on  5 March 2021* to access the University’s general and specialised computer labs and Wi-Fi on campus and in accredited off-campus student residences, so that they can engage in online learning.

* Students living in on campus or in accredited off-campus or private residences need to be back on 5 March 2021 to complete the compulsory ten days’ quarantine.  All such residence information is shared directly with new and returning students.   


As in the past, every staff member or student who needs to be on campus, requires a permit.  Just as staff need to complete COVID-19 prevention measures training, a health declaration and have line management approval, students must be invited to return or seek their lecturer’s approval and support to do so.  Students will be asked to accept the COVID-19-related conditions in which they commit to behaving in safe ways and adhering to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Laptops, data and WiFi

An additional 1 000 laptops, over and above the 6 292 made available to students in 2020, are presently being distributed countrywide, to enable additional students to work remotely.  The monthly 30G data provision to all students is ongoing, while extensive improvements are underway on and off campus to improve the quality of WiFi for all students living on campus and in accredited off-campus residences.  Full details to follow.

The University’s student laptop initiative which has resulted in many students accessing a computing device will continue.

Negotiations are also ongoing to seek clarity from NSFAS regarding the NSFAS student device programme and implications thereof to Mandela University students.  Further communications will follow.

Online Student Services

ICT Services is also consistently developing new automated systems to improve efficiency and alleviate the need for mask-to-mask interactions.  This includes everything from transport to library bookings.  See the link for services above.

This online support also extends to prospective students, many of whom are awaiting their matric results, which are due for release on 23 February 2021.  The University wishes to mitigate against the usual walk-ins by providing the online alternatives.


There will be no mask-to-mask registration on campus.  This too, will take place online and has been open since 11 January for those who have received firm offers to start in 2021 and those whose Mandela results for 2020 have been finalised.

Virtual advice via platforms such as Skype for Business will be set up to guide first-time entering undergraduate students through the registration process which will continue until 16 April 2021.

Please note that registration after 5 April is subject to payment of a late registration fee

Students can get all registration-related information by going to

Financial Aid

This is a challenging area since students are still awaiting their funding statuses from NSFAS.  For senior students this will come once the 2020 academic year is finalised, which is this month, while for new students, this will only be informed of their success after the matric results are released.

Thereafter, the University’s Financial Aid office will finalise new students’ funding statuses for 2021 as received from and approved by NSFAS.  Additional supporting information will be shared directly with affected students.

Important Virtual Dates

With the academic year ending late for both schools and institutions of higher learning, there has been a knock-on effect in terms of dates for the new academic year.  Engagements that happened in person, will now be happening virtually.

  • 1 - 5 March: Faculty Welcome (Dean’s Address and Faculty Meet and Greet sessions). Details to follow)
  • 5 March: Initial down payment towards tuition and accommodation fees due
  • 5 March: Residences open for first year students
  • 5 - 12 March: Special first-year online registration sessions. (Online registration is already open). 
  • 6 March: Virtual Welcoming Ceremony for first-year students and parents/guardians
  • 8 - 12 March: First-Year Success Orientation Programme starts
  • 15 March: Lectures start and some orientation activities will a continue

Additional Information

As new decisions are reached and additional information becomes available, these will be communicated.

All these updates, such as the Welcoming Ceremony, the newly formatted “Meet and Greet” sessions for new students and the rollout plan for the First-Year Success Orientation programme, will be communicated shortly.

This information will be placed on our websites in due course.


Our experiences of 2020 saw us consistently adapt and compromise in the wake of many challenges throughout the pandemic.  It was not easy.  Now we are juggling both completion of the 2020 academic year and the start of the new 2021 academic year, each with their own complex and multi-layered challenges.

It is only through our individual and collective efforts that the University will achieve both.  Again, it will not be easy, but the University has every confidence that both will be achieved, thanks to staff who have invested deep thinking, time and energy to seeking the many solutions required.

This acknowledgment is to all staff across the University Community – from those committed to COVID-19 safety measures, right through to those responsible for the learning and teaching of students. No one staff member or division has been able to achieve and succeed without the support of others.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057