Stellenbosch University
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Constitutional Court rules in favour of Stellenbosch University's Language Policy
Author: Korporatiewe Kommunikasie / Corporate Communication
Published: 10/10/2019

​​​Statement, 10 October 2019:

Stellenbosch University (SU) welcomes the unanimous judgment by the Constitutional Court on 10 October 2019 regarding the University's Language Policy, approved in 2016.

The judgment clearly states that our Language Policy is constitutionally justified. It also confirms the goal of the Language Policy: To promote access to and multilingualism at the University, and to support the academic and career success of students and staff.

The Court also found that the process the University followed to accept the Language Policy had been “thorough, exhaustive, inclusive and properly deliberative".

The University takes note of the Court's reference to the protection of minority languages. Besides the use of English, SU is committed to the use of Afrikaans and isiXhosa. These are also the three official languages of the Western Cape, the province from which SU draws most of its undergraduate students.

The Court also found that the Language Policy was not trying to “eliminate" Afrikaans “by any means". According to the SU's Language Policy, the University remains committed to using Afrikaans – in conjunction with English – as language of tuition within the context of inclusivity and multilingualism.

It has also been SU's experience that the implementation of the Language Policy serves as confirmation that the demand for multilingualism is being satisfied – also as far as the special place that Afrikaans holds in teaching, the administration and the living environment at SU.

The Language Policy supports the fostering of a transformative student experience, one of the six core strategic themes of the SU's Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024. The use of more languages promotes access and inclusivity. Both English and Afrikaans are used as teaching languages – English so that no one is excluded, and Afrikaans because there still exists a demand for teaching in Afrikaans.

How is the SU Language Policy implemented?

For undergraduate modules Afrikaans and English are the languages of learning and teaching. Separate lectures in Afrikaans and English will be offered for large groups where reasonably practicable and pedagogically sound, but group work, assignments, tutorials and practical sessions will involve students from both language groups.

In lectures where both Afrikaans and English are used, all information will be conveyed in at least English, with a summary or emphasis also repeated in Afrikaans. Questions are answered in at least the language in which they were formulated. For first-year modules simultaneous interpreting will be available during each lecture. During second and subsequent years interpreting will be provided upon request by a faculty.

Undergraduate lectures may be offered in one language only if the subject matter justifies doing so; if the assigned lecturer is proficient to teach in one language only; or where all the students in a class group unanimously voted for one language by secret ballot. For at least first year students, simultaneous interpreting into the 'other' language will be available.

Students will be supported in English and Afrikaans during facilitated learning opportunities, for example: consultations during office hours; routinely scheduled tutorials and practical sessions; learning facilitated by ICT (podcasts and vodcasts); and services offered by the SU Language Centre.

All compulsory reading material that lecturers generate (i.e. excluding published material) will be available in English and also in Afrikaans . SU module frameworks and study guides are available in English and Afrikaans. In undergraduate modules question papers for tests, examinations and other summative assessments are available in Afrikaans and English, and students may complete all assessments and written work in either Afrikaans or English. The multilingual model supports Afrikaans students who are yet to master English on an academic level. Our point of reference is the transfer of knowledge through the use of more than one language, while being attuned to the needs of students. By their final year, they will be able to function nationally and internationally with English as well, where that is the language of business and other interactions.