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SPIA Program at the University of Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms:
Program Terms: Spring Semester
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Program Dates & Deadlines: Click here to view
Restrictions: Princeton applicants only
Budget Sheets Spring Semester
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Fact Sheet:
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Dept Offering Program: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Type of Program: Study Abroad
Language of Instruction: English Language Prerequisite: No
Degree Level: 3rd year u/g students Time Away: Spring Semester
Housing options: Apartment (Shared), Dormitory, Guesthouse Duration of Program: More than 4 weeks
Program Adviser: Jordan Zilla
Program Description:
Program Description:


SPIA Program at the University of Cape Town

Please be reminded that you need to meet different deadlines when applying to this program:

  • Princeton application deadline: October 16, 2020
  • UCT application deadline: December 1, 2020
The School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) task force at the University of Cape Town, provides students the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Cape Town all while studying the areas of education policy and race relations in South Africa. Students will take courses at the university alongside other domestic and international students, in addition to  their task force seminar, which will take them on a trip to the Eastern Cape and have the chance to perform interview-based research. At UCT, Princeton students can study alongside South African university students in courses across several faculties and are eligible to participate in many activities sponsored by UCT and the student body. 

The University

The University of Cape Town began as the South African College in 1829, providing secondary and tertiary education for young men. In the late 1890's, the college grew in response to South Africa's needs and also began to include women. Full university status was achieved in 1918, when it took on the name of the University of Cape Town. Now UCT has four campuses and around 20,000 students, including those enrolled in Master or Ph.D. degree programs. The university is divided into six faculties, each of which is made up of a number of closely related departments: Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Science.

Like Princeton, UCT is dedicated to both teaching and research. It is one of South Africa's leading universities with a distinguished worldwide reputation. The university is committed to being a fully non-racial institution, opposed to any sort of discrimination and sees itself as an active participant in the issues and challenges confronting post-apartheid South Africa.

The Setting

The city, dominated by a towering, table-shaped mountain, lies at the northern end of the Cape peninsula, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans converge. Cape Town has immense natural beauty and a cosmopolitan community. Cultural and sports activities are offered both on campus and in the city.



Princeton study abroad students are required to take 84-90 NQFs within UCT's NQF Credit System for semester study abroad students. Each course has a uniquely defined NQF credit value, which is published in the Faculty Course Handbooks. It is important that students choose only from the courses listed in the most updated faculty handbook. Check the NQF credit values for your selected courses carefully. Courses are taught in English, and Princeton students usually take courses at the 2000-3000-level, but courses at the 4000-level are also possible. Few 1000-level courses are appropriate for Princeton students, and thus these courses are typically not approved. Students who wish to take a 1000-level course must receive special approval from an adviser in OIP.

It is important that students select courses for the correct semester to speed up the process of receiving an offer letter and pre-approval from the Head of Department at UCT. Please note that the notation of F and S at the end of a course code does not refer to fall and spring at UCT, but refers to First Semester (February-July) and Second Semester (July-November). W (Whole Year) courses are only available to study abroad students who are staying at UCT for the full academic year (February-November). Certain H (Half Year) courses are also offered throughout the year for one semester. Be sure to read the requirements in the faculty handbook carefully for more information about courses.

Princeton students may select semester courses offered by the Faculties of Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Humanities, and Science. In some cases, students may request to take a course in other faculties, but such requests must be discussed in advance and require special approval. If a student takes two or more courses in a Faculty, they will be enrolled in that Faculty. On arrival at UCT, students will be able to change their course choices if necessary, but they will not be able to change their Faculty. Therefore, a student who has been admitted to the Science Faculty, for instance, must continue to take at least two courses in the Science Faculty upon registration. No Faculty changes will be permitted upon registration.

Faculty of Commerce: Economics (with streams in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; Finance; and Statistics).

Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment: Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electromechanical Engineering, Architectural Studies.

Faculty of Humanities: Economics; Political Studies; Psychological Studies; Social Studies (with streams in Religion Studies and Social Policy); Gender and Women's Studies; Cultural and Literary Studies (with a stream in Media, Film and Visual Studies); Historical Studies; Law and Humanities; Philosophy, Language, and Thought; Language Studies; Theater and Performance.

Faculty of Science: Chemical Sciences, Molecular and Cell Biology, Environmental Science and Society, Science of Natural Systems (with streams in Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, and a combination of Life and Earth Sciences), Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (with streams in Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics), Information Technology (with streams in Computer Science, Scientific Computing, Computer Engineering), Physical Sciences.

Students interested in African Studies are encouraged to take advantage of the many programs offered by the Center for African Studies at UCT. These include a series of lunchtime seminars on a variety of topics offered by UCT faculty and visiting scholars as well as art exhibitions and musical performances.


Applicants must have a B average for the fall and spring semesters of the academic year preceding the year or semester abroad. UCT requires an overall B average.

Academic Advising:

Students will receive assistance in selecting and registering for courses from faculty advisers and faculty officers at the University of Cape Town. They will be given a general orientation to the university and to Cape Town by the International Programs office and by Ida Cooper Associates, which provides on-site support and housing for Princeton students.

Students will also receive assistance from Princeton’s Office of International Programs in making preliminary course selections that complement and build on work already completed at Princeton. Comments about courses from past participants are also helpful in selecting courses and can be found in the Office of International Programs. Before selecting a course based on these comments, remember to check the current UCT faculty handbook to make sure that the course is offered during the semester that you will be attending UCT.

Junior Independent Work Advising:

SPIA will offer a policy seminar each spring, taught by a UCT professor appointed by Princeton. This course is in addition to a full course load. The SPIA task force topic has traditionally been on education policy, and through the task force seminar, students have the opportunity to travel to the Eastern Cape for a week and get hands on experience researching and interviewing for their junior independent work. If there are less than three students going on the program, students will meet individually with their task force professor instead of in the classroom.

Grading & Credits: 

For information regarding credits, grading, and other academic policies, read the Academic Policies on the Study Abroad website. 

Academic Calendar

Fall semester typically runs from early July to late November
Spring semester typically runs from Late January to mid June
You can view exact program dates on the university’s academic calendar.


Space in university residences is rare for visiting students, but it is sometimes available. Students will be provided non-university accommodations and an orientation to living in Cape Town by Ida Cooper Associates.  Students will be responsible for their own meals. Students must fill out the housing application (downloadable in GPS application) and submit it to Ida Cooper Associates directly via email. 

The housing form provided by Ida Cooper Associates will ask the applicant to rank one's housing preferences. Brief descriptions of the housing options follow (please understand that, while Ida Cooper Associates will do its best to accommodate students according to their preferences, it may not always be possible to be placed in one's first choice of housing due to a variety of factors).   
  • University Residence (UCT on campus accommodation):  There is a limited number of rooms in this well positioned residence on middle campus.  It is very close to UCT and situated next to the International Office. The residence houses 206 men and woman students.  Accommodation is arranged in four pavilions and five courts, which flank a large lawn in the centre. Kitchens are shared by 4-6 students.  Each student has their own room. 
  • Apartment: The shared apartments are situated very close to UCT, typically within walking distance, in addition to shops and restaurants. It is very secure in a well-maintained and large apartment block. Students may be in a double or single room, and typically there are no more than three bedrooms. There is a lounge, kitchen, and bathroom to share.
  • Houses: The houses available accommodate between 4 - 12 people and are shared by students on the Ida Cooper Associates Programme (US students).  The houses are situated between 10-20 minutes away from UCT.  There are some double rooms but the majority are singles. All have kitchens, shared bathrooms, and lounge areas.The houses are serviced 1-2 times a week (cleaning of common areas). Some of the houses are more expensive as they are more upmarket and beautifully furnished. All the houses are very comfortable and secure.
Electricity and Wifi  (approximately ZAR 1,000 per month) is purchased on a pay-as-you go basis for the apartment and housing options.  Students will need to budget for this expense. This cost is, however, already included for the university residence.

All the accommodation options are fully furnished and linen is provided.  Students will need to bring their own towels, which can be purchased locally.

Student Life

Princeton students will have access to libraries, computing facilities, and infirmary services as do regularly enrolled students. In addition, there are non-university libraries in Cape Town that students may wish to use in connection with their research projects. Students are eligible to join any of more than 60 student societies that cater to academic, cultural, and social interests.

The Sports Council of the UCT makes available some 40 sport and recreational activities. Students can register for clubs during Orientation Week. During the course of the year, registration forms are available from Sports Administration.

Princeton students at UCT have found that community service enriches their experience in South Africa. The International Programs Office at UCT can help you get involved in projects.

Money Matters 

Students who receive financial aid at Princeton continue to receive Princeton financial aid for the approved costs of study abroad programs during the academic year. For detailed information about financial aid, program fees, and billing for study abroad, please visit the Money Matters section of the Study Abroad website. 
For estimated program costs, please click on the Budget Sheet at the top of this brochure.

Passport and Visa 

Students must have a passport valid for at least six months after the end of their study abroad program.  For information on obtaining or renewing a US passport, please consult the US State Department Passport Website. 
Students are responsible for checking the entry requirements for their destination country, and obtaining an appropriate visa, if required. 

Click here for information and forms to obtain a study permit. The South African Consulate General is located at 333 East 38th Street, 9th floor, New York, NY 10016, phone number (212) 213-4880. (Note: The visa office is open from 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Monday-Friday.) Please take care of this paperwork in a timely manner. You should allow at least two weeks to secure your South African study permit. Note that your FBI clearance must be completed prior to securing a study permit.

Please note these new exit/entry requirements:

  • Travelers stopping over in a yellow fever zone, even if they do not deplane and only refuel in that place, will require proof of a yellow fever immunization. Many flights to South Africa from the U.S. stop to refuel in Ghana or Senegal and both are considered yellow fever zones.
  • Travelers must have two completely blank pages in their passports for each entry into South Africa.

Note: By law, UCT cannot register students who do not present a study permit. Students should not enter South Africa on a tourist visa with the intention of changing it to a study visa while in the country. Individuals who do this are sent back to their countries of origin and are made to apply for a study permit.

Application Process

Students interested in applying to the UCT program should complete the following steps:
  1. Click "apply now" here on the GPS brochure to begin an application. 
  2. Complete the UCT Online application - Includes requirement to upload your transcript. Follow these instructions to complete your online UCT application.
In addition to a program application, students must also complete the Princeton Course approval form. This form is reviewed by the Committee on Examinations and Standing, which grants final approval to participate in the program. Students who meet the university eligibility requirements to study abroad and who have the support of their department are normally approved by the Committee.


Start planning your study abroad experience!

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Dates / Deadlines:
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Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2022 10/15/2021 10/22/2021 TBA TBA
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