Cofa apha ukuze ufumane isiXhosa
The Council of Stellenbosch University (SU) held its first of four scheduled meetings for the year on Monday 11 April 2022. It was also my first meeting as chair, having taken over the reins from Mr George Steyn in December. As has become our custom, we again met in hybrid mode, with some members participating online and others gathering in Stellenbosch.
On campus, we experienced a sense of purpose as students and lecturers rushed to class, and staff conducted research or fulfil professional academic and administrative support functions. There does seem to be a return to some form of normality after two years of living in the shadow of Covid-19.
Mercifully, there are signs that we are moving beyond the pandemic or, at least, are managing the threat posed by coronavirus disease, but we remain painfully aware of the adverse impact of Covid-19 on our university community. Our condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and our best wishes to those who are still recovering from illness.
The national state of disaster related to Covid-19 was lifted on 4 April 2022, but certain regulations were kept in place, including restrictions on the number of persons allowed in lecture halls and other venues. Council noted that the University was continuing with learning and teaching in hybrid mode for the time being, but that it intended returning to full face-to-face mode as soon as possible.
Council welcomed the news that SU had done extremely well in trying circumstances for the second year in a row. The autumn graduation series took place in the week before our meeting, and I had the privilege of attending two of our ceremonies again held in person at the Coetzenburg Centre for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Congratulations to the graduates, and our deepest appreciation to all staff, including management, for making this possible.
At our meeting, we received a final report from Prof Eugene Cloete, whose second term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies will come to an end on 31 July 2022. And we appointed Prof Sibusiso Moyo as his successor, in whom we have the fullest confidence.
Please read on for more about our meeting.
Chair: SU Council
Academic year concluded successfully
Since the last Council meeting, the 2021 academic year has been successfully concluded with two series of graduations (December 2021 and April 2022). In total, SU awarded 8 768 qualifications. Master's degrees increased by 17%, and doctorates by 3%.
At the December and April ceremonies, honorary doctorates were awarded to Judge Fritz Brand, Mr Andy Calitz, Ms Diana Ferrus, Dr Marlene le Roux, Dr Patrice Matchaba, Ms Nicky Newton-King, Prof Marlene van Niekerk and Prof John Volmink.
Applications, registrations and enrolments for 2022
In the Rector's management report (click here for the full document, and here for a PDF of his presentation), Prof Wim de Villiers pointed out that SU had seen an increase of 143% in student applications for 2022. This was thanks to not only our recruiters' stellar efforts, but also the revised application process on the new SUNStudent system. A total of 6 032 newcomer first-year students have enrolled this year – 13,4% more than in 2021.
A decade of excellence in Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies
Prof Eugene Cloete used his final reporting slot to provide Council with an overview of his two terms in office (click here for his management report, and here for a PDF of his PowerPoint presentation). He structured his report around progress in the six strategic focus areas he started out with in 2012 (click here for a summary) and thanked current and former colleagues throughout our institution for their contributions.
Council unanimously adopted a motion to congratulate and thank Prof Cloete for his two successful terms, stating: “He leaves behind a healthy portfolio and did tremendous work to establish an outstanding, leading research-intensive university, to develop important partnerships and, at the same time, to further expand postgraduate studies as an important sustainable building block to support this."
New Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies
Prof Sibusiso Moyo has been appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU. Council took this decision at its meeting on Monday 11 April 2022 after she had earlier also secured the support of the Institutional Forum and Senate. She will assume office on 1 September 2022, succeeding Prof Eugene Cloete, whose second term comes to an end on 31 July. Prof Moyo, an experienced higher education executive with a background in the mathematical sciences, is currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology. Please click here for more.
Covid vaccination rule
Council received feedback on the development of a Covid-19 vaccination rule from Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis in his capacity as chair of SU's Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC). A draft rule was published for public input in December, and about 1 400 inputs had been received by the deadline in January.
In the meantime, a new variant of the coronavirus has emerged, which introduced further complexity in the management of the pandemic, requiring input from SU's Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) based on the latest medical data. Prof Cloete, who chairs the committee, reported that the MAC is of the opinion that SU staff and students have developed substantial immunity against Covid-19, either from vaccination or natural infection.
Council noted that a recommendation would be made to the ICBC (click here) to suspend the process of developing a vaccination rule for the time being, but that it could be restarted rapidly if required. Council would still have the final say, and a special meeting could be convened if necessary.
Language Committee report
Council received input from its Language Committee, who met on 2 March to consider language implementation reports from faculties and student communities, as well as feedback from the Language Planning and Management Committee. (These reports covered the second semester of 2021, when SU's 2016 Language Policy was still in place. A revised version, approved in December 2021, took effect on 1 January 2022 – click here to read more.)
The Language Planning and Management Committee commended faculties and student communities for “the care they took not only to consult widely in terms of feedback, but also for the innovative ways they promote multilingualism". However, some of the language implementation reports lacked detail. The template would be amended to ensure greater comprehensiveness and consistency.
The Language Committee reported that the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation was aware that SU considers Afrikaans to be an indigenous language, and that the Department of Higher Education and Training was open to “further submissions in this regard". In June 2021, Council noted with concern that the Language Policy Framework of 2020 excluded Afrikaans from the list of indigenous languages.
Two deans reappointed
Council noted the reappointment of Prof Danie Brink as Dean: AgriSciences and Prof Nicola Smit as Dean: Law when their first terms expire on 30 June and 31 July respectively. The chair of the Senior Appointments Committee had approved the two deans' reappointment with their faculty boards' support. Prof Brink will serve a further 3½ years, and Prof Smit five.
- Dr Therese Fish, elected by Senate (for the period 1 January to 31 December 2023)
- Prof Nico Koopman, appointed by the Rector as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to serve on Council (1 January to 31 December 2022)
- Mr Willie Liebenberg, elected by the Convocation (2 April 2022 to 1 April 2026)
- Dr Nicky Newton-King, elected by SU's donors (2 April 2022 to 1 April 2026)
- Dr Leon Schreiber, elected by the Convocation (2 April 2022 to 1 April 2026)
- Prof Nicola Smit, elected by Senate (1 January to 31 December 2023)
- Ms Penny van der Bank, elected by SU's permanent administrative and support staff (6 April 2022 to 5 April 2024)
- Mr Hubert Brody, re-elected by SU's donors (2 April 2022 to 1 April 2026)
- Adv Gesie van Deventer, re-elected by the Stellenbosch municipal council (4 April 2022 to 3 April 2026)
- Dr Nicky Newton-King was appointed to the Executive Committee of Council for the period 12 April 2022 to 11 April 2024.
- Ms Sindi Lingela and Ms Penny van der Bank were appointed to the Social and Business Ethics Committee of Council for the same period.
- Ms Viwe Kobokana was appointed standby member on the Senior Appointments Committee for the appointment of a Senior Director: Operations (for the duration of the appointment process).
- Dr Therese Fish received the Chancellor's Award in December 2021 in recognition of her contributions to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences over nearly two decades.
- Prof Nicola Smit co-authored Liber Amicorum Manfred Weiss, which was published in 2021.
- Ms Viwe Kobokana graduated with the degree BSc (Human Life Sciences) on 6 April 2022.
Council offered its condolences to Council member Mr Jannie Durand on the passing of his father, Prof Jaap Durand, who served on Council from 2001 to 2004, having been appointed by the then Minister of Education.
The next meeting of the SU Council is scheduled for 20 June 2022.