"We can only feel satisfied that there is fair access when the daughter of the farm worker has the same future opportunities as the son of the farmer."
- Prof H Russel Botman, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, in his 2007 inaugural address
SU's student profile has changed quite drastically since the 1990s. At the time of former President Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990, 762 black students (as a generic term for blacks, coloureds and Indians) were enrolled at SU, constituting a mere 5,4% of the entire student body. In 2012, SU had 9 221 black students. At undergraduate and postgraduate level, this group represents 33,1% of the student body. The number of undergraduate black students as a percentage of the student body has risen from 25,9% in 2012 to 28,3% in 2013.
Particularly the faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences, Arts and Social Sciences as well as Engineering have shown a marked increase in the representation of black students. SU's commitment to diversity is reflected in its intention to increase the percentage of black undergraduates to 34% of the student body by 2015.
In order to diversify its student profile, SU follows a dual approach. Due to historical challenges in secondary teaching, SU has both launched its own and supported other initiatives to help equip Grade 11 and 12 learners for university studies. These initiatives are therefore aimed at
prospective students. Student success, especially in the first academic year, is of paramount importance to the University. Various initiatives on campus offer academic support to all
enrolled students, with a particular focus on students from educationally disadvantaged communities.