Text of the letter and document sent by Professor Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, to members of the senate, 12 November 2015
Special Senate meeting
12 November 2015
10:30 - 12:30
Endlersaal/Endler Hall, Konservatorium
12 November 2015
Dear Members of Senate
This year was the first implementation opportunity after the Language Policy and Plan was adapted in November 2014 to give equal status to Afrikaans and English as languages of tuition. The objective with these changes was to ensure equitable access to Stellenbosch University for all South Africans, as set out in our vision of inclusivity described in the Institutional Intent and Strategy.
When exploring new and alternative options one often encounters challenges or hindrances in the way of reaching the envisaged objectives. After the first year of implementation and feedback, and also as a result of many discussions with various stakeholders we acknowledge that some of the practical outcomes are contrary to our vision of inclusivity. We also acknowledge the complexity of language implementation and the multiple perspectives linked to teaching and learning in a plurilingual context.
Subsequent to discussions with the SRC, Open Stellenbosch, SASCO, the Student Parliament and other student groupings, and as a result of the findings of the various language task teams, taking academic principles as the point of departure, we recognise the urgent need to accelerate initiatives to ensure that language does not form a barrier to access and does not prevent student success.
To this end the Rector’s Management Team has formulated the attached statement on the Language Policy and the implementation of language at the institution. We appreciate that these points of departure for language implementation as soon as 2016 will have a substantial practical impact on both staff and students, but due to the urgency of these transformation measures, we are committed to provide the necessary support.
It should be noted that the attached statement was discussed with Open Stellenbosch (OS), and consensus has been reached on the principles, as points of departure, related to language implementation expressed by the RMT. However, consensus could not be reached with OS on Management’s insistence on acknowledging the role of other student groupings in the process. The Management Team and I had discussions with the Deans, and the SRC yesterday, and look forward to further discussions with the members of Senate today. It will not be a formal Senate meeting, but your input is essential to the success of accelerated language implementation, and we would like to consult Senate before communicating with the broader campus community.
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor
Statement by the Rector’s Management Team on the Language Policy and the implementation of language at the institution
12 November 2015
The Rector’s Management Team (RMT) has been in discussion with various student groups over the past months on, among others, Stellenbosch University’s Language Policy, the Language Plan and language implementation. Based on feedback related to classroom experiences and input from Open Stellenbosch, the SRC, SASCO, and the Student Parliament, language task teams have since been considering various options for, among others, best practice in language implementation in 2016.
The following principles, as points of departure related to the Language Policy and language implementation, are supported by the Rector’s Management Team. In this regard, we would like to acknowledge the distinctive contribution of the Open Stellenbosch Collective in the most recent discussions to ensure that language implementation does not form a barrier in the way of access to learning opportunities at Stellenbosch University or the successful completion of academic programmes.
At Stellenbosch University we intend using language in a way that is oriented towards engagement with knowledge in a diverse society and to ensure equitable access to learning and teaching opportunities for all students.
Since English is the common language in South Africa, 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. At the same time, by means of its Language Policy and Language Plan, the University is committed to the creation of spaces within which English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and other languages can flourish. In particular, the University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages.
For modules with large enrolment numbers, which are divided for pedagogical reasons or because of the size limits of available lecture venues, the University shall keep on expanding parallel-medium instruction in lectures. In smaller class groups all information will be conveyed in English.
Additional support in Afrikaans and isiXhosa will be provided in the lecture and/or during the auxiliary, facilitated learning opportunities to assist students’ understanding of the academic material. This will depend on the capabilities of the lecturers and teaching assistants. The lecturers will continue to provide presentation material and facilitate assessment in both English and Afrikaans. As is presently the case, students can answer tests, exams and assignments in English or Afrikaans.
In residences and other living environments, students should use English as the common language in house meetings and other official functions. Other languages can be used additionally, and mechanisms like interpretation can be employed.
The primary language of communication and administration at Stellenbosch University will be English, with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as additional languages. 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, including meetings, official documents, and services at reception desks and the call centre, etc.
The Rector’s Management team will put the above principles as points of departure to the SU Council at its meeting of 30 November 2015. These principles, as points of departure, will be communicated and consulted with Senate, and widely in the broader student and staff communities of the university, as well as with other SU stakeholders.
A revised Language Policy and Language Plan, based upon the points of departure articulated in this document, should clearly embrace language diversity at Stellenbosch University and ensure accessibility for staff and students. In the meantime, the points of departure of this document will be applied as from January 2016. Students and staff must have avenues to complain in cases of non-adherence, without the risk of being victimised.