Nestled on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, the University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa’s oldest university, and is one of Africa’s leading teaching and research institutions. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College. There is an active cultural life both on campus and in the city, and many sports and other activities are offered at the university. UCT’s outstanding record in teaching and research is responsible for attracting talented students from all over the world. Currently UCT is host to 4,320 international students from 104 different countries.
For additional information, visit the CIEE Cape Town website and the University of Cape Town website.
The City of Cape Town
Cape Town forms the hub of the Western Cape, and it is the center of politics, business, industry, and services in the region. Often regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities because of its geography, Cape Town, with landmarks like Table Mountain and Cape Point, is the most popular South African destination for tourism. With beaches, mountains, and forests at your doorstep, Cape Town is a historic, cosmopolitan city with a vibrant contemporary culture of music and art, as well as a host of sport and leisure activities. Cape Town’s population of about 3.74 million people, it is the third most populous city in South Africa. Its official languages are Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English.
Did you know…?
Cape Town is home to the only tobogganing track in Africa. The track is located 25km outside of the city center and is named after the film “Cool Runnings,” which chronicles the journey to the Olympics for Jamaica’s first bobsled team.
The program at CIEE Cape Town is for College and Engineering students.
Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0
Language Prerequisite: Prior study of an African language through the Penn Language Center is recommended, but not required.
Additional Course Pre-requisite(s): Successful completion of at least one African Area Studies course by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure is required.
Other Requirements: Completion of at least two full years of undergraduate study by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure is required.
Language of Instruction
Courses at UCT range from 12 to 36 HEQF (Higher Education Qualifications Framework) credits each. A full course load on the CIEE Cape Town program consists of between 62 and 82 credits per semester.
Typically, an 18 HEQF credit course would equate to 1 Penn CU and a 36 HEQF credit course would equate to 2 Penn CUs. Penn students must maintain a full course load of 4 – 5 Penn CUs while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level.
Students are required to enroll in at least one course with a specific African content or one that offers a distinctive African perspective in their area of interest, plus two to four elective courses.
Courses may be taken in all UCT faculties excluding Health Sciences.
As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average. The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. For more information on Penn Abroad’s academic policies, click here.
Grading for University of Cape Town courses is by continuous assessment, but anywhere from 50% - 75% of the final grade is based on the final examination. Additionally, students must meet the “Duly Performed” requirement by attending a minimum number of classes and completing a minimum number of assignments in order to be eligible to sit the final exam.
Grades are reported to Penn on the University of Cape Town scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following equivalencies:
UCT Numerical Grade
Corresponding Penn Letter Grade
All Penn students are required to attend the orientation activities organized by CIEE. Students begin their study abroad experience before leaving home by participating in a CIEE online pre-departure orientation. Upon arrival in Cape Town, students will participate in a mandatory orientation program, during which they will participate in programs organized by CIEE as well as by the University of Cape Town. The goal is to introduce students to the country, culture, and academic program, and provide practical information about living in Cape Town.
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 the Western Cape Province. Previous field trips and excursions have included the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Flats, Robben Island, Newlands Grounds, and a whale-watching excursion. The comprehensive cultural program also involves visits to local theater, music, and dance productions, museum, and rural cooperatives.
A three-day homestay with a local family in an Ocean View community will expose students to positive images of previously disadvantaged groups of people in South Africa, including Muslims and “coloreds” (people of mixed ethnic origin in South Africa).
The Community Service Program provides students with volunteer opportunities in the historically disadvantaged communities across 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.
Penn students studying at the University of Cape Town have access to a wide range of student activities and associations. More information can be found here.
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.
Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.
Students are required to live in a housing option provided by the CIEE Cape Town program. Students have three choices for their housing selection:
Students who elect to live in a UCT Residence hall live in apartment-style residence halls with South African or other African students. Students have small single rooms and share kitchen and other facilities with two or three other students. All of the residents of the apartment share basic cleaning duties. Students are responsible for their own meals which are not included in the program fee. Please not that amenities are more basic in the UCT residences, but students looking for an immersion experience will enjoy interacting with South African and other African students.
Students living in off-campus houses or apartments near campus will live with fellow CIEE program participants. Students have small single rooms (some houses have a small number of double rooms) and share kitchen and other facilities with five to ten other students. All of the residences share basic cleaning duties. Students are responsible for their own meals.
Students may also choose a homestay with a South African family, which provides an excellent opportunity for immersion into the local culture and is strongly recommended for students who wish to take full advantage of their experience in South Africa. Breakfast and dinner are provided during the week, while breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided on weekends. Since homestay families are located throughout the Cape Town area, students will be required in most cases to utilize public transportation to and from UCT, a 20-30 minute commute.
Information regarding accommodation can be found on the CIEE program website.
Cost and Finance
Penn Abroad Financial Policies
Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs. Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare. Please see the program budget sheets below for more information. For more on Penn Abroad’s financial policies, click here.
Financial Aid and Study Abroad
In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs. Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. For more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad, click here.
David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad: Supports undergraduate study abroad focusing on geographical areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to US national security. (Excludes study in US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.) These US government grants entail a service obligation.
CIEE Scholarships & Grants: Provides both merit-based and need-based scholarships and grants for undergraduate studying abroad on CIEE programs.
For information on the Penn Abroad application process, click here.
To open an application or learn more about the program, please click here to schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager.