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SU’s December hybrid graduations celebrate academic success despite tough 2021
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing | Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 09/12/2021

Stellenbosch University (SU) will confer 5 629 qualifications at its hybrid graduation ceremonies from 13–16 December 2021, including a record number of 677 master's degrees, the most in 10 years. A record number of 500 undergraduate qualifications will also be awarded to graduates in the Faculty of Engineering. In addition, the University will award 143 doctoral degrees, six more than this time last year.

Six honorary doctorates, the Pro Bene Merito award, various Chancellor's Awards and the Chancellor's Medal will also be awarded.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hybrid graduation week will comprise 11 small physical (face-to-face) ceremonies in the SU Conservatoire of Music (Konservatorium) to confer doctorates, honorary doctorates and awards and medals, along with online faculty-specific graduation ceremonies.

A graduation ceremony will also be held in Saldanha today (Friday 10 December) for graduands of SU's Faculty of Military Science.

Honorary doctorates

The following individuals will be awarded honorary doctorates on Monday, 13 December:

  • The degree Doctor of Laws (LLD) honoris causa will be conferred on Judge Frederick Daniël Jacobus (Fritz) Brand in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of law. This SU alumnus is being acknowledged for his highly influential judgments as justice of the high court and Supreme Court of Appeal, as well as his involvement in legal scholarship and training of a new generation of judges, both locally and globally.
  • Dr Marlene le Roux will be awarded the degree Doctor of Education (DEd) honoris causa for her work in empowering and supporting disadvantaged groups to pursue a fulfilling career in the arts. Her outreach projects range from theatre appreciation workshops to taking complete productions, along with workshops and educational theatre, to rural areas and communities where opportunities for arts and culture are limited.
  • SU alumna Ms Nicky Newton-King will receive the degree Doctor of Laws (LLD) honoris causa for her contribution in developing South African financial law and regulation, and strengthening the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), as a foundational pillar of South Africa's economy, through her leadership for more than 23 years.
  • Prof Marlene van Niekerk will receive the degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) honoris causa for her immense impact on the Afrikaans literature and literary landscape, not only through her own writing, but also through training students who went on to become well-known authors and winners of sought-after literary awards.
  • The degree Doctor of Education (DEd) honoris causa will be conferred on Prof John David Volmink for his outstanding contribution to education and curriculum reform, the advancement of mathematics education, and the quality assurance of schooling in post-apartheid South Africa.

Pro Bene Merito award, Chancellor's Awards and Medal

The prestigious Pro Bene Merito award, which recognises an individual who has delivered exceptional service to SU, will be awarded to Desmond Kent Smith, a former SU Council chair and former managing director of the Sanlam Group. The award consists of a medal and a certificate.

The Chancellor's Award go to staff members whose careers attest to sustained excellence in research, innovation, learning and teaching, social impact and professional services.

The Chancellor's Medal, in turn, is awarded to a final-year or postgraduate student who has excelled academically.

Academic success

According to SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, while 2021 – the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic – proved just as challenging as 2020, the University also turned challenges into opportunities and found new, innovative ways of work.

“Our objectives for 2021 were more or less the same as in 2020: to allow students to complete their academic year successfully, and to remain sustainable as an institution. And yet, because of the agility and determination of our staff and students, we've managed to surpass these objectives, and thrive," Prof De Villiers said.

He added that SU had succeeded in bringing students back to campus this year thanks to augmented remote teaching, learning and assessment (ARTLA) – a hybrid learning system that gave students the chance to attend class either in person or online. Necessary protocols were also put in place for students to physically experience life on campus again.

Expressing the hope that these initiatives had improved the graduating class's student experience, Prof De Villiers said: “Obtaining a university education is about more than classroom learning. Every interaction you've had during the past few years – academic or social – will help shape your future."

  • Click on the relevant links on for more information on the various ceremonies.