26 February 2021
Dear colleagues and students
The Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) of Stellenbosch University (SU) met earlier today, Friday 26 February 2021. The Chair of the Students' Representative Council (SRC), Mr Xola Njengele, joined the meeting for the first time as a regular member.
The most important item on the agenda was a decision about SU's approach to learning and teaching this academic year, which formally kicks off in just over two weeks' time with the start of undergraduate classes on 15 March.
We took note of the decline in the number of coronavirus cases, both nationally and in our province. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat. We want to both ensure a successful 2021 academic year and promote the health and safety of all our staff and students. To that end, SU expects our students and staff to conduct themselves with an awareness of social solidarity, mindful of the impact our behaviour has for the health and safety of our University community and the broader community. In this way we can ensure, collectively, that we minimise the risk of spreading the virus, save lives and ensure the success of the academic project.
The country is still under adjusted Level 3 COVID-19 regulations, and our sector is governed by directions issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Since the last ICBC meeting on 15 February, our engagement with the DHET has been continuing at the highest level to obtain clarity on the approach for this year. We have been doing so with others in our sector, as part of Universities South Africa (USAf). We take encouragement from indications that there will be recognition of the unique circumstances of each institution, and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be pursued.
We have confidence that no maximum percentage of students allowed on campuses or in the student accommodation offered by higher education institutions will be imposed at the national level, as each institution's spatial realities differ and each institution needs to manage access to their campuses and student accommodation in line with their specific carrying capacities and circumstances, within national and local safety protocols.
SU's approach for the first semester
We have put in place comprehensive measures to ensure compliance with COVID-19 regulations, and these will be strictly adhered to in the interest of health and safety. That will stand us in good stead as we move from the learning and teaching approach we followed last year, to a new approach this year.
We intend moving from last year's ERTLA to ARTLA this year – from Emergency Remote Teaching, Learning and Assessment to Augmented Remote Teaching, Learning and Assessment. What does that mean?
We will be following a differentiated approach in which there will be a mixture of face-to-face tuition, online and hybrid learning components. Faculties, departments and support divisions have engaged in intensive and detailed planning. Information about which modules will be presented in which format – whether face-to-face, online or hybrid (a combination of both) – will be placed on the University's website as soon as possible so that students and staff can check and make the necessary arrangements.
We will be inviting all our students back to our campuses. And the appropriate return of staff members to our campuses – in consultation with their line managers – will make it possible to provide ARTLA. However, there will be flexibility across the institution on the application of ARTLA. There will not be a uniform approach followed by all faculties.
An extensive initiative – the Extended Learning Spaces (ELS) programme – is underway to install technology in venues to make the streaming and recording of lectures possible. This initiative will be rolled out over the next few months to increasingly allow for the recording and streaming of lectures.
The student laptop loan project will be reactivated this year. Applications can be made via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be proceeding with plans to take students into our residences. All students who have been allocated placement in a residence will be able to move into their residences on the communicated dates. In addition to strict protocols that students would need to adhere to in our residences, we have made provision for isolation spaces should these be required.
Offers and registration
Following the release of matric results earlier this week, final offers to provisionally accepted students are going out today (an SMS to ask them to check www.maties.com). Prospective first-years can view their admission status by logging in with their username and password.
Registration has already started. More than 20 0000 senior and returning students have already registered online.
Newcomer first-year undergraduate students will be able to start registering online on Monday 1 March. Self-registration can be done from any computer with access to internet on www.maties.com. For more information, find the link to registration on www.sun.ac.za or please click here.
The Welcoming Programme for newcomer first-year students starts on Tuesday 2 March. Click here for the programme.
As stated before, we will require our students coming to campus and residences to agree to a code of conduct, including not participating in risky off-campus activities. We are calling on all our students – whether they stay in university or private accommodation – to behave responsibly and adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
Health, safety and well-being
Health and safety are top priorities for Stellenbosch University. We have put measures and protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are rolling out communication campaigns with three core components:
- Wear your mask (#maskup)
- Maintain a safe physical distance (#avoidcontact)
- Wash your hands and clean surfaces (#sanitise)
Vaccines offer some hope, but they are not yet widely available. Therefore, we must remain vigilant. If all of us act responsibly, we can prevent health services from being overwhelmed and stricter levels of lockdown being instituted, which we want to avoid.
Collaboration with all stakeholders
SU, as a responsible institution and a good corporate citizen, is joining municipalities and business communities surrounding our campuses to promote adherence to COVID-19 regulations and protocols. Together, we can keep our University and towns and businesses open and functioning to the mutual benefit of all.
In this time of great uncertainty and volatility, we nevertheless strive to provide the best possible service to all our stakeholders.
Stellenbosch University offers world-class learning and teaching and unique campus experiences. By working together, we believe we can provide these opportunities and at the same time promote health and safety.
Together we can look forward to the 2021 academic year and strive for the success I know we can achieve in our academic programmes, our research, social impact and in the lives of each member of the extended SU family.
Please take care and stay safe.
Prof Stan du Plessis