Stellenbosch University
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SU Ombud – advocate for the principles of fairness and equity
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing | Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 17/05/2023

​Across the globe, ombuds have for long served as independent channels through which individuals can seek help.

The term “ombud" comes from the Nordic terms “ombudsman", “ombudsman" and “ombudsmand", all of which mean “the citizens' defender". Over time, it has come to refer to a person who helps individuals or groups resolve conflicts or concerns.

At Stellenbosch University (SU), the Office of the Ombud provides a channel for student, parent and staff problems and complaints to be given appropriate attention where the existing University structures are unable to deal with these issues satisfactorily through the normal channels, or where existing structures appear to be inadequate.

The Office provides an independent, neutral and confidential space for people to discuss their issues relating to the University. The SU Ombud, Advocate Rina Meyer, is an independent person appointed to facilitate the informal resolution of such concerns.

Meyer provides more insight into the work of the office:

How can the Office of the Ombud help people?

The Ombud provides confidential, informal, independent and impartial assistance to individuals through dispute resolution and problem-solving methods such as mediation, facilitation and shuttle diplomacy. Visitors who wish to discuss matters relating to the University in confidence and seek independent guidance may find a place to speak freely. Those who want to report or discuss sensitive concerns confidentially are also encouraged to visit the Office of the Ombud. 

How does the Office of the Ombud fit in within the SU structures?

This Office does not replace existing SU structures; instead, the Ombud complements these structures. Therefore, complainants must first exhaust all prescribed University procedures before involving the Ombud. Only if their problem remains unresolved after a reasonable period has expired, complainants may turn to the Ombud. If the available channels have not been explored thoroughly, complainants will be referred back to those channels.

Why is it important for a university to have an ombud?

The Ombud is helpful to complainants but also to University leaders, as the Ombud's orientation is toward “fair process". The Ombud can also inform the University about issues or “hotspots" of which it ought to be aware, and the possible implications of those issues. Furthermore, the Ombud can identify serious potential problems that may be unforeseen or downplayed by management or employees. The Ombud may convey trends, systemic problems and organisational issues to high-level leaders and executives. The Ombud does not advocate for individuals, groups or entities, but rather for the principles of fairness and equity.

Who can lodge a complaint or query with the Ombud?

All SU students, prospective students, students' parents, employees and former employees, alumni, visitors and service providers of SU or institutions who want to take action against the University under certain circumstances, can approach the Ombud.

What is the nature of the complaints or queries that people can lodge?

Any SU employee, student, parent of a student, alumnus, visitor or service provider may approach the Ombud. Complaints may be lodged in the following circumstances, namely where persons referred to above:

  • feel that they have been treated unfairly by or within the University;
  • need advice to solve a complicated problem regarding the University;
  • have a complaint, issue or problem that could not be addressed or resolved internally;
  • need an impartial listener who will keep any sensitive University-related matter that they may raise confidential;
  • need a neutral mediator to assist in solving a dispute within the University; or
  • require help to expedite a matter that is delayed unnecessarily by the University.

Can a person remain anonymous if they contact the Office of the Ombud?

The Ombud holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence. The Ombud does not reveal, and cannot be required to reveal, the identity of any individual contacting the Ombud Office, without that individual's express permission and only to the extent of that permission. The only exceptions to this rule are situations of apparent immediate danger of serious harm and when a legal duty applies.

What can the Ombud not help with?

The following falls out of the ambit of the Office:

  • Make decisions on behalf of the University.
  • Make or overrule University policies or established procedures (though the Ombud may comment on or recommend change, or do both, regarding these areas).
  • Intervene if the complaint can be pursued as a grievance according to established University procedure.
  • Accept notifications on behalf of the University or any party.
  • Consider complaints that are already the subject of a lawsuit.
  • Give legal advice or provide psychological counselling,
  • Award compensation.
  • Act as representative for any party.
  • Handle purely academic matters.
  • Attend to patently vexatious or frivolous complaints.

Is there any risk involved in consulting the Ombud?

No. The University guarantees that no one will suffer reprisal, discrimination or victimisation for seeking assistance from the Ombud. In terms of the South African Constitution, everyone is entitled to privacy, access to information and just administrative action. The University and the Office of the Ombud respect these rights.

How can parties lodge a complaint or query with the Office of the Ombud?

To submit a complaint or concern for the Ombud's consideration, complete and submit the complaints form, which is available on the website. The form is also available from the administrative officer of the Ombud Office and Mrs Grace Bruintjies can be contacted for appointments at Urgent matters may be reported at

Where is the Office of the Ombud located?

As a means of protecting the identities of complainants, the Office of the Ombud has been strategically located off campus on Ryneveld Street to minimise any possibility of being noticed.

Image: Mrs Grace Bruintjies, the administrative officer of the Ombud Office, and Advocate Rina Meyer, the Stellenbosch University Ombud.

Image by Stefan Els