South Africa’s Oldest University Grapples with Parking Shortages


South Africa’s Oldest University Grapples with Parking Shortages

The University of Cape Town in South Africa is grappling with increased student and staff numbers that exert too much pressure on the already constrained parking space. It also faces limited financial resources available to create additional parking lots for the ever-growing number of vehicles at the institution’s four campuses.

Increasing human and vehicular population poses the greatest challenge for this university, popularly referred to as UCT. The university has a rich history that is the envy of many other higher institutions of higher learning in Africa. 

UCT, founded in 1829, is the oldest institution of higher learning in South Africa, and together with Stellenbosch University, also of South Africa, the oldest extant university in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stellenbosch was declared full university in 1918.


All the parking disks are paid for through cash, credit cards or
deduction from salaries.


In addition, UCT has a record of having on the list of its alumni five Nobel Laureates including American political scientist and diplomat Ralph Bunche, virologist Max Theiler, physicist Allan McLeod Cormack, chemist and biophysicist Aaron Klug and emeritus J. M. Coetzee who won the award for literature. 

Probably based on such rich past, the number of applicants lining up to join rose to 29,074 in 2017. 

At UCT, the administration has created a traffic department to implement the university’s access management system that addresses parking on campus, equitable and safe access to the institution’s three campuses, improvement of the quality of life and environmental protection.

The department has created parking slots in all the university campuses of Groote Schuur, Observatory (medical campus), Hiddingh and Breakwater. Groote Schuur is the biggest and has three sections of Upper Campus, which experiences highest vehicular traffic because it serves as the venue for key university events such as graduations, ceremonial events and a large share of the institution’s exams.

In addition, more parking slots have been created at Groote Schuur’s two campuses of Middle Campus and Lower Campus. They are separated from the Upper Campus by the university’s sports fields and the M3 Expressway that serves the rest of Cape Town city. An equally high number of vehicles are expected on these two campuses because they also host most of the student hostels, administration offices and university sporting facilities.

The parking bays are controlled by the use of a boom barrier that is manned by the traffic department’s staff who control access by staff, students, visitors and parents. 

UCT has categorized the parking slots into different classes for groups of university staff and council, students of various cadres, the disabled and visitors. Each of these groups has a different type of parking disk that is valid for a specific vehicle for a period of time to enable easy control of parking and safety of vehicles on campus. All parking disks are applied for via a special form prescribed by the department of traffic.

UCT’s traffic department has a red parking disk for all academic staff in rank of senior lecturer and above, professional, administrative support and service staff of salary Class 10 and above, university council members and staff and students with disabilities. This category parks in the red parking bays in all campuses. This parking disk is purchased annually.

A yellow parking disk is available for all other staff and those students employed by the university with an average monthly salary of $1,220. UCT employs between 100 and 1,000 students at any one given time according to the institution’s reports. The disk is available for purchase once a year.

Other parking disks sold by UCT traffic department include P18 for Masters/PhD students, and Blue for all other students except first years, who are not allowed to come with vehicles to campus. Green is for students residing in Smuts and Fuller Halls. Temporary that is purchased daily for visitors staying for more than a day; Transit for parents dropping and picking their children at the Educare center; Black for staff and students using motorcycles; and Rhodes Memorial for first year students and other students. The parking bay for the Rhodes disk has 58 slots. 

All the parking disks are paid for through cash, credit cards or deduction from salaries of purchasing staff.

In 2017, UCT’s traffic department adjusted upwards the charges for each of the parking bay categories. Student unmarked parking bay charges went up from $73 to $76 every year. For residents of the Smuts and Fuller hostels at the university, the charges were raised from $115 to $122 while parking slots at the Obz Square are now costing $140 up from $132 in 2016.

Parking charges for university staff also increased to $122 for red marked parking bays up from $115m. Yellow parking bays and those for motorcycles went up to $76 and $18 from $73 and $17.30, respectively.

 A report by UCT’s traffic department says there has been an “increased demand for parking which has led to inappropriate areas being allocated for parking, thus causing damage to the environment.”

 “The situation has arisen because of an increase in the number of students, increased car usage and long days spent on campus,” the department said.

Vehicle owners who violate parking regulations at UCT have their vehicles or motorcycles clamped by the traffic department and released only after paying afine for the offense.

However, UCT, which reported an income from various sources of $227 million in 2016, says there is no guarantee for those who have purchased parking disks having slots to park their vehicles. Neither is there a plan to expand available parking space to accommodate the increasing demand.

“Further surface parking will not be increased, with exceptions in some outlying areas,” the department said, adding that “creation of further structural parking above or below the ground is not within the university’s financial reach.”

The increase in student numbers at UCT is replicated across South Africa where Statistics South Africa records indicate a 32.5 percent growth in enrollment between 2006 and 2015. Such growth means more additional staff members and an increase in the number of vehicles, motorcycles, three wheelers requiring space for parking as well as increased dropping offs of members of the universities’ communities.

The university’s dominance in the rankings of African universities, particularly in the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities mean even more students are expected in 2018.

Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. You can reach him at

Article contributed by:
Shem Oirere
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