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Welcome to the Faculty of Humanities' Education Development Unit website!

Academic development in its embryonic form dates back to the early 1980s, when despite Apartheid restrictions, a few Black students were admitted at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Owing to the students’ poor schooling under the Bantu Education system and their subsequent under-preparedness, the Academic Support Programme (ASP) was set up to provide them with additional support through add-on foundation courses and tutorial programmes.

In 1993, the ASP was turned into the Academic Development Programme (ADP), which aimed to shift the focus to more systemic solutions. Extended Degree Programmes came into being during that period and brought together foundation courses in students’ now extended mainstream programmes. In 1997, the White Paper for the Transformation of Higher Education was released, guaranteeing funding for AD work in the name of equity and redress.

When the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) was established in 2000, the ADP found a new home. Programmes designed by the ADP under CHED had a developmental thrust and there was a shift from the deficit model of student learning to a generative one that factored in students’ psycho-social needs and other adaptation issues. Gradually, the ADP nested itself in different faculties and Education Development Units (EDUs) were established to oversee the provision of Extended Degree Programmes to students within those faculties.

In the Humanities, Extended Degrees were offered from 2005. In 2013, the Faculty of Humanities established its own Education Development Unit (EDU). Since then, two new foundation courses have been on offer:

  • Working with Concepts in the Social Sciences
  • Working with Texts in the Humanities

These courses aim to provide students the requisite critical analytical tools to engage with concepts and texts in their mainstream courses. Care is taken to align the skills and content to what is covered in the latter courses. At present, those enrolled in Extended Degrees are students in the equity categories whose NSC and NBT scores suggest that although they do not meet the Faculty’s open entrance criteria, they have the potential to succeed with additional academic interventions.

In the second semester, the ED programme is also opened to mainstream students with unsatisfactory first semester results to give them four years to complete their degrees.

The Humanities 4-year degree – also sometimes called the `extended degree’ – is run by the Humanities Education Development Unit (Hum EDU).  The 4-year degree results in exactly the same qualifications as a 3-year Humanities degree –a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Social Science (BSoc Sci) – but  the minimum time to finish your degree is 4 years. This takes the pressure off, allows you to take fewer courses in any one semester, time to develop yourself, discover what you really want to do and also take 3 majors if you are doing well. Doing a 4-year degree gives you more time to complete the qualification, and also provides more teaching support throughout that qualification than occurs on the 3-year degree. This is to ensure that you have a rich undergrad experience and get the best results you can. 

It is worth knowing that a high percentage of students who choose to do their degree in three years actually take four or more years to complete the degree anyway - due to failing some courses. The Humanities Faculty has specially designed the shape and pace of the four year degree so that you have enough time and support, meaning that failing is less likely and you finish with a stronger transcript and GPA than such a student who attempted to complete their degree in 3 years but in fact needed more time.

The Humanities 4 year degree is a placement program, meaning that you will apply to the university for a general Humanities degree, and if you are eligible for admittance to the 4 year program, you will be offered a place on it. However, if you’re accepted onto the 3-year Humanities degree and you’d like to move into the 4-year program, this is possible - you can apply to the Director of the Hum EDU to be moved onto the 4-year program.

Doing a 4-year Humanities degree comes with some distinct advantages, but there are also some limitations that you need to know before you decide to take up a place on the 4 year degree. We’ll quickly look at each; more information is available from the Hum EDU if you need it.

Advantages of the 4-year program:

  • You take 3 courses per semester, which means you have more time to focus on each course and to complete assignments and get good marks
  • You take 2 or 3 Introductory courses in  your first year, which give you writing, numeracy and disciplinary specific support to make the transition between high school and university as smooth as possible. There are a number of courses you can choose from, tailored to the majors you are taking for your degree. Some of these courses also allow you to submit work in the language of your choice.
  • You have extra tutorials ( Plus Tuts)  available in most Humanities first and some second year courses, which are specially designed by well-trained Teaching Assistants to give you cutting edge pedagogical support in your courses.
  • There is more potential to take a triple major as you have more time
  • You have access to curriculum advice & counseling support year round should you need it.
  • In addition to academic support, in the 4-year degree you can access to a range of other kinds of social support if you need it –a mentor, counseling, reading groups and teas 

4-year program restrictions

  • You may not major in undergrad Law. This is due to a Law faculty requirement that you take 8 courses in your first year, not a Hum EDU rule. However, it is perfectly possible (and in fact the Law Faculty recommends this) that you take a general undergraduate degree and later specialise in postgrad Law.
  • To major in Psychology, you need to take 2 Introductory Numeracy courses in your first year. You’ll start your Psychology major in your second year – this will not slow your degree down at all, however, and gives you a numeracy skill advantage over other students that you will likely appreciate when taking the Psychology Research courses.
  • To major in Economics you also need to take 2 Introductory Numeracy courses in your first year & pass them well, before applying for special permission from the Director.
  • In your first year if a Plus Tut is offered for a course, you must take it. You need to take at least 3 Plus Tuts altogether in the course of your degree. This is because of the reporting requirements the Hum EDU has to the government, who funds the 4-year degree.  If you are a senior student you can get a concession to be excused from taking the Plus Tut linked to a course you are registered for. However, our research shows that most students value these tutorials; and their grades go up when they attend.

We look forward to welcoming you to UCT. If you have any additional questions, please email them to

For more information on the Faculty of Humanities EDU programmes, download the Humanities EDU Guide.

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