Stellenbosch University
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COVID-19 Update: SU suspends lectures from 17 March
Author: Prof Wim de Villiers‚Äč: Rector and Vice-Chancellor
Published: 16/03/2020

16 March 2020

Dear Colleagues and Students

With a rapidly changing environment around us, and following the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last night, the Stellenbosch University Rectorate this morning took the following decisions:

  • All lectures and assessments have been suspended from Tuesday 17 March 2020. For students on the Stellenbosch campus the recess period between the two first terms of 2020 will start tomorrow.
  • For students on the Tygerberg campus academic arrangements will be communicated via the Dean's office.
  • The second term is scheduled to start on 30 March 2020 via online instruction. The situation will be monitored continuously and information will be updated on the website as specific scenarios develop.
  • All students in university accommodation are requested to vacate their residences and to return home for the recess period. As we are aware that there may be students who are unable to do so, some students will be accommodated in University residences. Measures will be taken to reduce the risk of contamination and provision will be made for isolation. Students who remain in residences would be expected to follow the indicated hygiene and other protocols. Practical arrangements and more detailed information will follow.
  • Postgraduate students should liaise with their supervisors to discuss practical arrangements, and also work off campus if possible. Questions should be directed to academic departments.
  • Research activities should also continue where at all possible.
  • Graduands that would have attended the cancelled graduation ceremonies in March/April will receive their qualifications in absentia, but will have the opportunity to attend graduation ceremonies in December for the ceremonial conferring of their degrees, pending the circumstances at the time. Graduands will receive further information on practical arrangements to obtain their documents later today.

Although closure of a university is only recommended if several cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed, Stellenbosch University has decided to start the recess period although we have not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections on our campuses. The two most important public health principles are social distancing and the containment of the disease to limit the spread of infections. We are in contact with national and provincial agencies to ensure that we follow the prescribed protocols.

Essential services will continue on campus. The University management and academic staff, with the support of the professional and administrative support services, are focussed on business continuity to ensure that our students can complete a successful academic year.

For that reason the institutional contingency committee formed six weeks ago, has now been converted into an Institutional Committee for Business Continuity, with several operational committees to give priority attention to the various practical aspects of campus activities that are impacted by the global pandemic.

We do understand that national and institutional measures, for example the early closing of schools, will affect our staff and students. We do not have all the practical answers as yet, but will continuously monitor the situation and communicate with our stakeholders, especially staff and students.

We have communicated about the cancellation of the March/April graduation ceremonies; the Varsity Cup matches scheduled for this evening have been called off, and the installation of the Chancellor on 8 April has been postponed.

Important contact numbers and precautionary measures are available on the SU coronavirus webpage. The National Department of Health has announced a WhatsApp service for queries related to COVID-19. Simply add 060 012 3456 as a WhatsApp contact and type Hi for access to relevant information.

The SU Campus Health Service has a 24-hour contact number with a physician on duty:  0764310305. Enquiries regarding institutional arrangements (not medical enquiries) can be directed to

I would also like to appeal to all members of our campus community to refrain from spreading unconfirmed information, rumours and panic. Let's work together.

Prof Wim de Villiers

Rector and Vice-Chancellor