Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
1st Staff assembly of 2019 a step closer to a stronger university community
Author: Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Sandra Mulder]/Corporate Communication [Sandra Mulder]
Published: 21/02/2019

​​The first meeting of the year for Stellenboch University's (SU) approximate 4 000 staff members was held in Stellenbosch today (21 February). Staff members from five campuses could attend the meeting in person for a presentation (click here) by the University's Management team or they could follow it via the internet.

Approximately 200 staff members were in attendance at the Endler Hall in Victoria Street. The rest were able to follow it via live streaming.

  • Cellphone users click herefor video.


Programme Director Prof Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation, Social Impact, Personnel and Transformation, welcomed all the staff at the meeting. He said that meetings like these would become part of the University's tradition to improve communication among staff. 'We gather as University community. You know that community and communion are strengthened by communication."

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, ushered in the meeting on a positive note by focusing on the Top 10 successes achieved by the SU in 2018. The ones he highlighted, were:

  • Another graduation record was achieved for the 2017 year, which ended in March 2018: 9 032 qualifications (1620 master's degrees and 305 PhDs) was awarded.
  • The student success was phenomenal with eight out of ten students completing their studies.
  • SU once again attracted top students, with the average Grade 12 percentage of the newcomer first-years being 77%.
  • Sport and culture: SU was crowned as the 2018 Rugby Varsity Cup champions and the SU Choir is still the number one choir in the world.
  • Social impact: Here the University's Law Clinic being named the “leading African firm" and students helping to improve affordable housing were mentioned.
  • Financial assistance amounting to R500 million in undergraduate bursaries and loans was given to students. (One-fifth of this money came from SU's main budget.)
  • Campus renewal project, with the opening of the Jan Mouton Learning Centre and the Adam Small Theatre complex.
  • Centenary project, celebrating achievements, but also learning lessons from past mistakes.
  • The introduction of Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024 serves a new roadmap for the future.
  • The realisation of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking laid the foundation for an interdisciplinary school spanning the entire academic project.
Prof De Villiers also elaborated on some of the national challenges facing higher education, some of which have been mentioned at US. These challenges are connected to accumulating student debt and financial exclusions; student accommodation, student transport and campus health services; NSFAS appeals and confusion about allowances; academic records and certificates; treatment of workers/insourcing; and student safety and security.StaffAssembly2019Feb-7.jpg

“These national challenges will of course impact Stellenbosch University. The accumulated student debt reached R10 billion in South Africa. At UKZN alone is debt of R850 million. This is a crippling amount of money.

Regarding financial exclusion, he said, “It is our policy and our utmost desire not to financially exclude students on financial grounds if there is academic merit. NSFAS of late 2018 and 2019 is much better that we had before. It is not perfect by any means, but there is an improvement."

About the issue of workers and insourcing, he said, “Our policy is not one of willingly insourcing, but we focus on viable or sustainable sourcing. The two principles in the policy and central to it, are human dignity and a liveable wage."

Prof De Villiers highlighted some of the main priorities as our roadmap to the future. This included that making the University more research intensive, through initiatives such as the establishment of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking. This addresses one of SU's core strategic themes for 2019–2024, research for impact.

“A new world of work that is rapidly upon us is the fourth Industrial Revolution and we should think about how we are going to adapt to it. There needs to be a different attitude towards career and there are decisions that need to be made. That is why the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking is very important to us," said De Villiers.

The second priority is digitalisation, for instance through digital learning and the SUNFin and SUNStudent information systems. These will contribute to creating a thriving Stellenbosch University offering a transformative student experience and networked and collaborative teaching and learning.

The alignment of processes, systems, policies, etc. is also a priority for 2019, while there will be a larger focus on staff, which in turn can contribute to the vision of making the SU an employer of choice.

After Prof De Villiers, the Registrar, Dr Ronel Retief gave some feedback on registration 2019 and the progress with NSFAS funding.

With the registration of newcomer students having been completed, a total of 5 119 new students commenced their studies at SU. Dr Retief said this figure was 4,7% lower than that of 2018 and it was also below the target of 5 371 new students for 2019. A report on this matter will be issued later.

On the upside the continuous communication between her office and current and new students bore fruit. Dr Retief highlighted processes such as the bespoke webpages that pulled together all the relevant information needed by new and current students for a stress-free registration. Online and assisted registration at the computer user areas also helped students to register and to gain access to all relevant information needed.

All of this helped to reduce enquiries received by her office from new and current students, which in turn reduced the pressure, said Dr Retief.

Challenges with registration and student accommodation still faced by the University included the lack of accessible and affordable accommodation for financially needy students and the late allocation of NSFAS funding in January, which also compromised effective placement processes.

“We were only able to provide accommodation to 2 300 of the 5 200 newcomer students. It is clear that there is a problem. Many students were accommodated in residences after we had received cancellations and many were referred to private accredited accommodation.

Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, reported on the progress made with strategy development and gave feedback from the Institutional Planning Forum (IPF). This followed the introduction of the new vision and mission of the University at the staff assembly held in July 2018. The Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024 are already being implemented and is currently being refined.

Prof Koopman allowed time for a short question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting.