Dear member of the SU family
It's been a most challenging year, so it is not surprising that there is a sense of relief in the air as we count down the days to the end of 2020 – we've made it!
However, we should not forget the hardship and pain suffered by so many people this year, on multiple levels – personal, professional, financial, academic, etc. Let us especially remember those who have passed away, and convey our condolences to their families and friends.
I am thankful that Stellenbosch University (SU) has been largely successful in achieving the two overarching goals we set when COVID-19 struck early on in 2020 – to complete the academic year, and to ensure we remain sustainable for future generations – thanks to many people's hard work and sacrifices.
We awarded 5 701 qualifications across our ten faculties this week (14–16 December 2020), which is truly remarkable, given the difficulties of this year. Well done to all our students, lecturers and tutors, as well as professional administrative support services staff members.
At undergraduate level, we awarded 3 409 degrees, diplomas and certificates – the most ever in this category during our annual December graduation ceremonies – and at postgraduate level 1 005 honours degrees, 502 master's degrees and 138 PhDs. We can rightly be proud of our University's contribution to the development of knowledge and talent in our country, continent and the rest of the world.
Key to this achievement was our ability to rapidly switch to online emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment when face-to-face tuition was suspended on campuses nationwide in March. On the whole, the transition went well, for which we are very grateful.
However, we also know that some students had a very hard time because they lack resources or find themselves in difficult circumstances. And even though we tried our very best with laptops and data, and extensive assistance, it was still a challenge.
We have to acknowledge this and keep on improving, especially as we start incorporating more hybrid and blended methods in our learning and teaching, which is the future.
The other core activities our the University are equally important. Our researchers stepped up even more that usual this year with innovative contributions in the fight against the pandemic and its effects on society. It is most gratifying to report a significant rise in published articles – that's the “research for impact" we are striving for.
Also in terms of social impact, we made a tangible difference to the lives of many people through such efforts as providing food aid to vulnerable households in and around Stellenbosch, in collaboration with local partners.
At international level, we have also been able to strengthen our ties with other universities and higher-education partners the world over. In many ways, the move into cyberspace has made communication and collaboration much faster and easier, and we want to maintain this momentum going forward.
I also want to thank everyone who made available much-needed resources to help us meet the many unforeseen expenses we had this year. Our gratitude to the government, the SU Council, philanthropic trusts and foundations, corporate donors and alumni, as well as staff members and students who contributed.
It has been an incredibly taxing year, and we all deserve a break. I wish you a peaceful festive season, and please look after your health and those of others. Now is not the time to let down our guard. Let us stop the spread of the coronavirus by observing all COVID-19 protocols.
May you have a good rest, and return rejuvenated in the new year.
We intend resuming most on-campus activities to the fullest extent possible in 2021, the coronavirus permitting. Our goal is to restart face-to-face tuition, augmented with some online learning in line with COVID-19 regulations on class sizes and physical distancing. We look forward to welcoming all our students and staff members sooner rather than later.
I am proud to be part of Team Stellenbosch University, and thank you for your contribution. Let's go forward together.
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor