Stellenbosch changes hands but not ethos

June 1, 2001

South Africa's leading Afrikaans-medium university this month appointed an executive from Australia's University of Wollongong to its top post.

Chris Brink, a South African mathematician, is to return to the University of Stellenbosch after a period as pro vice-chancellor at Wollongong. Professor Brink, 50, beat 12 applicants and two shortlisted Stellenbosch vice-rectors to clinch the job at the university, which has been embroiled in an ardent language debate over its decision to remain Afrikaans when most students in the country want to learn in English.

He cut short speculation about whether his appointment would affect the language issue by announcing that Stellenbosch should be the choice of Afrikaans speakers "whether it is their first, second or third language".

Stellenbosch, a research institution with more than 17,000 students, is one of three universities in Western Cape province, and the only Afrikaans one.

The province, home to most of South Africa's coloured (mixed-race) population, is 60 per cent Afrikaans speaking.

Professor Brink lectured in maths at Stellenbosch before moving to Cape Town University. He left South Africa in 1999 for the post at Wollongong. He will take up his new post on January 1, when Andreas van Wyk retires.

His appointment follows the decision by the University of the Wi****ersrand in Johannesburg to appoint Irish statistician Norma Reid vice-chancellor.

Currently deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Plymouth, she will move to South Africa later this year, replacing Colin Bundy, now director of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

Meanwhile, at the University of the North a settlement has been reached over the fate of vice-chancellor Biki Minyuku, who has been on suspension for 18 months. A university spokeswoman said that Dr Minyuku - who was accused of withholding information from the university at the time of his appointment and of negligent management - will leave the institution at the end of May. All charges against him have been dropped.

Education minister Kader Asmal has appointed an administrator to oversee the troubled institution until a new vice-chancellor is appointed.

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