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Three honorary degrees; many qualifications to be awarded at SU's December 2020 hybrid graduation
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing Division
Published: 11/12/2020

​In addition to its 5 700 qualifications Stellenbosch University (SU) will award three honorary doctorates during its December 2020 graduation ceremonies. A total of 138 doctorates will be conferred.

The recipients of honorary degrees are Ms Nasima Badsha, who helped transform the South African higher education sector; Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim, who is honoured for her pioneering research in the field of HIV and AIDS; and the late disability activist Ms Rachel Kachaje, whose degree will be awarded posthumously and will be received by her husband Gibson.

As result of the COVID-19 pandemic SU will host a hybrid graduation week, which will include 12 small physical (face-to-face) ceremonies for doctoral graduands, honorary doctorates, Chancellor's Awards recipients and the Chancellor's medallist in the Endler Hall, as well as virtual faculty-specific graduation ceremonies. Graduation ceremonies will take place from 14 to 16 December 2020.


Ms Badsha will receive the degree Doctor of Education (DEd), honoris causa in recognition of for her visionary, courageous and innovative leadership in steering the transformation of the higher education system in South Africa; for her intellectual contribution in the form of policy development and advice, and for her dedication to access, equity and social justice.

Prof Karim will receive the degree Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa for her pioneering research in the field of HIV and for advocating for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV, for her commitment to advancing the health of young women in Africa and globally, and for her generosity in sharing her knowledge through scientific and citizen-centred endeavours in Africa and beyond.

Ms Kachaje, who passed away earlier this year, will receive the degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), posthumous honoris causa for her creative and visionary leadership in elevating the debate on disability to regional and global platforms; for challenging prejudiced notions of disability and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities.


The University will confer a total of 5 700 sought-after SU qualifications upon students this December – which is simply remarkable, given the unprecedented challenges students had to face  this year. Of this total, 3 400 are undergraduate degrees, diplomas and certificates, 502 masters' degrees and 138 PhDs. 

Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, Prof Wim de Villiers, commended lecturers, support staff, tutors and students for “walking the extra mile to keep our academic project on track". We shall not easily forget 2020. “What started off as the proverbial 'year of perfect vision', soon turned into a bit of a nightmare due to the coronavirus pandemic. All of us had to dig deep to stay on course with our goals," he said.

“All the plans that we as a University had at the beginning of the year were quickly reduced to two overarching objectives: to ensure that our students complete their academic year, and that our institution remains sustainable for future intakes. I think we have achieved this – thanks to the hard work and sacrifices made by our staff members and students."

At these graduation ceremonies, the University will also give recognition to some of its academics and professional and administrative support staff with the awarding of the SU Chancellor's Awards.  

The 14 recipients for the 2020 Chancellors Awards include:  

  • Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel (Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching)
  • Prof Jimmy Volmink (Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences)
  • Ms Ellen Tise (Senior Director: SU Library and Information Services)
  • Ms Lazelle Bonthuys (Deputy Registrar)
  • Ms Carol Kat (Head: Copyright and Short Courses)
  • Mr André van der Merwe (Conductor of the SU Choir)
  • Prof JAC (Andre) Weideman (Professor of Applied Mathematics)
  • Prof Nuraan Davids (Professor of Philosophy of Education)
  • Mr MJ Brooks (Faculty Director: Economic and Management Sciences)
  • Prof JF Görgens (Director of Centre for Process Engineering)
  • Ms Anel de Beer (Departmental Manager: Industrial Engineering)
  • Mr Rodney Davidse (Civil Engineering)
  • Prof GPAG (Gideon) van Zijl (Centre for Development of Sustainable Infrastructure)
  • Prof Marian Kruger (Executive Head: Department of Paediatrics and Child Health)


December graduation schedule:

The face-to-face ceremonies will take place from 14 to 16 December 2020. Four ceremonies will be held per day. Click here to access the schedule.

Seven virtual ceremonies will take place. Click here to access the schedule.

All the graduation ceremonies can be followed live on the internet at



Ms Nasima Badsha:  Doctor of Education (DEd), honoris causa (to be awarded on 14 December: 18:00)

Ms Nasima Badsha has played a vital role in the transformation of higher education in South Africa since the 1980s.

Born in Pietermaritzburg in 1951, she graduated from the University of London with a BSc (Honours) and from the University of Leeds with a Graduate Certificate in Education. She returned to South Africa in 1976 as a lecturer until moving into academic development and student affairs at the universities of Cape Town and the Western Cape, respectively.

In 1994, President Nelson Mandela appointed Badsha to the National Commission on Higher Education, where she played a key role in conceptualising the new higher education dispensation. Appointed deputy director general of the Department of Education in 1997, she helped draft the Higher Education Act of 1997, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act and the Standard Institutional Statute.  Her role in the implementation of Education White Paper 3 and the National Plan for Higher Education led to the large-scale restructuring of higher education from 2002 to 2005.

She became chief executive officer of the Cape Higher Education Consortium in 2007, retiring in 2018. South Africa continues to benefit from her expertise through her involvement in university and foundation councils.


Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim: Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa (to be awarded on 15 December: 09:00)

Intent on increasing the national and international focus on HIV prevention, especially among adolescent girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa, Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim has been at the global forefront of HIV research for 28 years.

It was her team at the Centre for AIDS Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) – where she is associate scientific director – that conducted the landmark Tenofovir gel CAPRISA 004 trial. This trial demonstrated for the first time that anti-retrovirals can prevent HIV infection.

An A-rated South African scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist, Abdool Karim is also professor in clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, and pro-vice chancellor for African Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

She is recognised worldwide for her scientific contributions in highlighting the need for women-initiated technologies and the importance of integrating HIV-prevention efforts into sexual reproductive health services.

This work has brought her over 30 national and international awards, including the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa's highest honour, and the prestigious L'Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science award for Africa and the Middle East.  Abdool Karim is Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV on the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), and scientific advisor to the executive director of UNAIDS.


Ms Rachel Kachaje: Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), posthumous honoris causa (to be awarded on 14 December: 09:00)

Ms Rachel Kachaje was a disability activist for over 25 years, advocating for equal opportunities and rights for people with disabilities in Malawi, the African region and internationally. Kachaje was known for her ability to inspire young people with disabilities, for her embodiment of the values of compassion, respect, excellence, accountability and equity.

Kachaje, who became disabled at the age of three due to a polio outbreak was working for the National Bank of Malawi when she first joined the disability movement in Malawi. She co-founded the Federation of Disability Organisations' (FEDOMA) in the 1990s and represented it in the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD).

She was elected Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs in Malawi and in 2004 received a Malawi Human Rights Award and a Diversity Leader Award.  She was part of the landmark negotiations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and contributed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) discussions. 

Kachaje had a proven ability in advancing the agendas of people with disabilities in general, and in particular women and girls with disabilities. Her mission was to advocate and promote rights for people with disabilities and to lead a life that would always affect them in a positive manner.