Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Students: Important information for online learning in Term 2
Author: Prof Stan du Plessis: Chair: Institutional Committee for Business Continuity
Published: 17/04/2020
17 April 2020

Dear Student

Since our last communication of 8 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension of the lock-down period to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus until the end of April. This announcement impacts all of us and we thank you for your patience as we continue to grapple with the challenges as they unfold every day. Our scenario planning at Stellenbosch University (SU) is carried out with the awareness that circumstances may change.  We are, however, committed to complete the 2020 academic year and to support our students in doing so.
Please find the latest updates on various matters that affect our students below, especially with the second term of the first semester starting on Monday 20 April 2020 via our online learning and teaching platform, SUNLearn. I would like to also refer you to the webpage which provides guidelines for online learning.

Online learning support
Please log all your online learning and SUNLearn support requests via the portal to allow us to track your support requests and solve it efficiently. You will also find self-help resources on this site.
Providing laptops to students without devices
Based on the feedback obtained from an online survey completed by ±19 000 students, an SMS sent to students who did not complete the survey, feedback from faculties and calls received by the SU Contact and Client Services Centre, SU compiled a list of students who only have access to a cell phone and/or indicated that they would like to make use of SU’s laptop loan offer.
SU managed to procure 1 500 laptops that will be made available to socio-economically disadvantaged students who have no connectivity to SU’s online learning resources. According to this offer, the price of the laptop will be loaded onto the student’s account and reversed when the student returns the laptop at the end of the academic year. An SMS will be sent to the list of students to confirm their acceptance of the offer as well as their physical address to courier the laptop. Once confirmed, the laptops will be set up with the necessary software and delivered to our students. These laptops will be covered by the University’s insurance provided that students ensure that all reasonable measures are taken to secure the equipment.
Zero-rated data
Updated information about zero-rating of websites and tips for containing mobile data costs, are available on the Guidance for online learning page.
To assist our students we have compiled a set of zero-rating FAQs for easy reference.

Adjusted 2020 University Almanac
It became necessary to  adjust the 2020 University Almanac due to the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lock-down. Following the approval of an adjusted academic calendar framework by the Executive Committee of Senate, the Registrar's Division set out to adjust the 2020 Almanac accordingly for the remainder of the year. Once the final version has been approved by the Executive Committee of Senate, the adjusted Almanac will be published on the SU website in the week of 20 April 2020.
Class, test and examination timetables
The class, test and examination timetables are in the process of being rescheduled according to the amended academic calendar. Please consult the staff and student web portals for the relevant information, as well as additional notifications in this regard.
Information will be made available on the dates as indicated below:

  • Class timetables for the rest of the year have already been published.  Explanatory notes will follow shortly.
  • A1 (class tests) for semester 1:  20 April (or soon after)
  • A2 (first exam opportunity) and A3 (second exam opportunity) for semester 1:  30 April (or soon after)
  • A1, A2 and A3 for semester 2:  27 July at the latest
Readmission to the University in 2021
The University acknowledges the many challenges facing our students as they continue with their academic programmes during the lock-down period and beyond.  Even though we have put various mechanisms in place to support our students through the coming months towards their academic success, we do anticipate that some of you may struggle to complete the academic year successfully. 
For this reason, the University has decided to grant all students enrolled in 2020 readmission to their academic programmes in 2021, i.e. irrespective of their academic performance, these students will not be excluded from continuing with their academic programmes next year.  This arrangement does not apply to students who were academicaly excluded in previous years – these students still need to apply for readmission to the University for 2021.
Re-placement in university residences in 2021
Academic performance (HEMIS) as a criterion will not exclude students from re-placement in undergraduate and senior residences on the Stellenbosch campus in 2021 to align with the decision on academic readmission in 2021 as above. However, residence re-placement is not applicable to students who have exceeded their maximum stay in a residence. As for the Tygerberg campus, third-year residents in junior residences will have to apply for placement in the senior residences as usual.
Re-application for residences will open mid-May on the student portal and will close on 31 July. The Residence Placement Office will send a reminder to all students in residences in this regard. Please heed the deadline and ensure that you apply in time. More information on re-placement of current students in residences will be provided as soon as we have the relevant application data at hand.
As for first-year placements, the University will continue with accommodation offers in September when more information on residence capacity is available.
Phased start-up of on-campus teaching and learning activities for students
One of the possible scenarios following the hard lock-down period which is currently scheduled till 30 April 2020, could be a so-called “smart lock-down” phase allowing businesses and possibly universities to recommence their services in a responsible way that limits the risks of COVID-19 infections.
The overarching SU strategy remains to provide online learning for at least the rest of term 2 of the first semester of 2020, and to do the assessments (tests and examinations) online as well. However, faculties have already started identifying programmes and modules where students have to perform certain academic activities on our campuses. Support services are developing measures to use and maintain SU learning facilities in such a way that it allows for appropriate social distancing and adequate sanitation to prevent the spread of the virus once our students resume on-campus activities.
The details about which students should be allowed to return to campuses and by when will be communicated as soon as we have a clear indication of the next national measures to curtail the current health pandemic.

Phased return for some students to SU residences
Irrespective of the rate at which academic programmes return from online offerings to on-campus teaching and learning there may, in exceptional cases, be a necessity to allow limited groups of students to return to their SU residences after expiry of the national hard lock-down period. This could for instance include students who do not have the computer technology or internet connectivity to study online from home, or students who have to do essential clinical and practical work in hospitals and SU laboratories.
Much planning is in progress on how to accommodate residents safely while providing essential food and cleaning services. It is foreseen that returning students will still be subjected to COVID-19 testing, temporary quarantine regulations and may have restricted movement from and in their residences. Special arrangements will be made to care for our student communities under these unusual living conditions. SU’s actions will be guided by the national COVID-19 response regulations and students will be informed in due course about who may return and by when.
It is important to note that students should not return to residences before receiving official communication in this regard – this invitation from SU to students may indeed follow several weeks after the end of the national hard lock-down period. During the current lockdown period until the end of April the national disaster regulations remain applicable and students will not be allowed back into residences to collect personal belongings or study materials.
Rebates on tuition and residence fees
Stellenbosch University is currently considering the full impact of Covid-19 on tuition and residence fees. We are aware of the financial strain experienced by our students and their families during this difficult period. As there are many uncertainties we have not been able to make an accurate assessment, but we will communicate with students and parents as soon as decisions have been taken in this regard.
I would like to recommend that you use the first two weeks of the second term to prepare yourselves for online learning, and to make use of the various support services that we offer our students. All the related information is available on the COVID-19 webpage.
Wishing you all the best for the second term.
Prof Stan du Plessis
Chair: Institutional Committee for Business Continuity