"Language should be used 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 should be facilitated in at least English to ensure no exclusion due to language. The University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages."
These are some of the principles included as points of departure in a statement (copy below) on language implementation issued by the Stellenbosch University Management today (Thursday 12 November 2015). The statement outlines some principles and sets the tone for the way forward, and forms part of an on-going consultation and communication process with the broad campus community and other stakeholders.
The statement is a synthesis of Management's insights gained since May this year from lived experiences and input from the student community on the Language Policy and language implementation. It was discussed at a meeting called with Senate, after discussions with the Students' Representative Council and Deans of faculties earlier this week.
The status of the RMT statement is that of a discussion document. The Statute of the University prescribes that Council determines the Language Policy with the concurrence of Senate. For any proposed changes to the current Language Policy, proposals will have to be tabled at a formal Senate meeting before being submitted to Council. It is unlikely that such a process can still be completed in 2015.
Some points of departure in the statement include the objective to use 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 should be facilitated in at least English to ensure no exclusion due to language. This does not imply the abandonment of Afrikaans as language of learning and teaching at Stellenbosch University. The University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages.
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. The points of departure expressed in the statement is based on the lessons learnt this year and students' practical classroom experiences after consultation with various student groups, including but not limited to the SRc, Open Stellenbosch, SASCO and the Student Parliament.
For 2016 the implementation of parallel-medium teaching (separate English and Afrikaans classes) for modules with large enrolment numbers as envisioned in the current Language Plan, will be drastically accelerated. At today's Senate discussion departments were reminded of the prevailing guideline in the Language Plan that due consideration should be given to support mechanisms for those students who are not sufficiently proficient in either English or Afrikaans, especially in smaller class groups where parallel medium teaching is not feasible.
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.
 A language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose home languages are different.