From switching to emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment, to helping staff combat the pandemic and mitigating its effects, Stellenbosch University (SU) made good progress this year, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 will rightly be remembered as especially challenging. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, all our priorities were immediately reduced to completing the 2020 academic year; and ensuring SU's sustainability. I am happy to say I think we managed well – thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of colleagues. Thank you all!" said Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, Prof Wim de Villiers during the final virtual staff assembly for 2020.
De Villiers said two main factors contributed to SU's success. This included setting up the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC), which allowed SU to handle the crisis with coordination, in an integrated way. The other, staff members, “both in academic roles and those in professional administrative support services, who have been walking extra mile after extra mile to keep our academic project on track."
He also highlighted some of SU's successes in 2020 and outlined the way forward for SU staff and students. Among the SU highlights he mentioned were:
- switching to emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment;
- an increase in research productivity as measured in number of articles published;
- staff helping to combat the pandemic and mitigating its effects;
- the University co‐establishing Stellenbosch Unite, a collaborative movement that distributed food to vulnerable households;
- SU managing to retain its conditions of employment and most of its staff;
- the appointment of Prof Deresh Ramjugernath as Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching who will take over from Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel in January 2021; and
- the re-appointment of Rectorate members Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice‐Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, and Prof Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice‐Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel for a second term.
The recipients of the 2020 Chancellor's Awards to staff, whose careers attest to sustained excellence, were also announced during the virtual assembly. The recipients will receive the awards at next week's December graduation.
The recipients include the following:
- Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel – Rectorate
- Ms Lazelle Bonthuys – Division: Registrar
- Ms Carol Kat – Division: Chief Executive Officer
- Mr André van der Merwe – Division: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel (Conductor of SU Choir)
- Prof André Weideman – Faculty of Science
- Prof Nuraan Davids – Faculty of Education
- Mr MJ Brooks – Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
- Prof Johann Görgens – Faculty of Engineering (March 2021)
- Ms Anèl de Beer – Faculty of Engineering
- Mr Rodney Davidse – Faculty of Engineering
- Prof Gideon van Zijl – Faculty of Engineering
- Prof Jimmy Volmink – Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Prof Mariana Kruger – Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Ms Ellen Tise – Division: Research; Innovation and Postgraduate Studies
Prof De Villiers also paid tribute to outgoing Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching, Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, who will be retiring at the end of the year. “He has made his mark here – from his student days! Our sincere appreciation for your sterling contribution over many years in various capacities. We wish you all the best," said De Villiers.
During the staff assembly, Profs Stan du Plessis (Chief Operating Officer), Schoonwinkel (Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching) and Nico Koopman (Vice-Rector: Social Impact, Transformation & Personnel) also gave short presentations.
Du Plessis gave an overview of SU's budget for next year. Among the key points during his presentation, was the announcement of an increase in tuition and accommodation fees for SU students, as well as salary adjustments for SU staff from 2021.
Schoonwinkel gave an eight-year overview and shared some legacy highlights from the Learning and Teaching team at SU during his tenure.
Among the highlights he mentioned, included:
- getting through the #FeesMustFall protests;
- implementing a multilingual language policy for inclusivity;
- the roll-out of a hybrid learning business plan; and
- completing the 2020 academic year under COVID-19.
Koopman announced the extension and expansion of health and wellness services to SU staff and students during his presentation. He said the University was “grateful" to have been able to “extend the reach" of SU's Staff Wellness Office through a partnership with an external service provider, Life Employee Health Solutions.
“This resource aims to assist staff and their families with a variety of personal and professional concerns within an environment of complete confidentiality. The service will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week, every day of the year," said Koopman.
SU staff is encouraged to visit the University website for more information on these services as well as return to work procedures and protocols to follow next year.