Stellenbosch management bid to make English ‘primary language’

Rector Wim de Villiers faces potential opposition from South African university’s council, despite student campaign

November 17, 2015
A group of students shout slogans and hold banners at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa
Source: Getty
Strength in numbers: students take part in a protest against alleged racism at Cape Town’s Stellenbosch University

The heads of one of South Africa’s leading universities have called for English to become the institution’s “primary language”, after claims that the use of Afrikaans excluded black students.

The management team of Stellenbosch University issued a statement saying that all communication and tuition should be “at least in English”, in response to allegations of racism and marginalisation made in the documentary Luister.

However, it has since emerged that the rector, Wim de Villiers, will need to win the backing of Stellenbosch’s council to reduce the importance of Afrikaans.

Reports in South African media suggest that the council may reject the proposal when it meets later this month, with members preferring to put the languages on an equal footing.

Stellenbosch’s initial target was to make 75 per cent of courses available in English, but management have accepted that they need to move faster after a long period of student protests.

The management statement said that, since English was South Africa’s common language, “all learning at Stellenbosch University will be facilitated in English, and substantial academic support will be provided in other South African languages, according to students’ needs”.

“The primary language of communication and administration at Stellenbosch University will be English, with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as additional languages,” the statement said. “The additional languages may not be used to exclude anyone from full participation at the university.

“This implies that all communication at Stellenbosch University will be in at least English.”

A subsequent university statement said that, while students should be able to study in English if they wished, claims of the “fall of Afrikaans” were an “over-simplification”.

“Afrikaans will not be diluted as a result of the expansion of the English offering,” the second statement said.

South Africa’s higher education system has been rocked by protests in recent months that forced planned tuition fee rises to be put on hold and reflected dissatisfaction with the slow pace of post-apartheid transformation at some traditionally white-dominated institutions.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Forrest Post Doctoral Research Fellow

University Of Western Australia

Research Fellow in Statistical Epidemiology

London School Of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (lshtm)

Phone Advisor

Gsm London
See all jobs

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'