Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Welcome, welkom, wamkelekile!
Author: Prof Wim de Villiers
Published: 15/03/2021

​​Dear colleagues and students

As the 2021 academic year officially gets going today (15 March 2021), I am pleased to bid you all a warm welcome!

And I’m not alone in my excitement at having you back. This time, “town and gown” are joining forces in welcoming all students and staff to campus. We are convinced that if we all do our bit, we can safely keep both SU and the rest of the town open and functioning optimally, for everyone’s benefit.

On Friday, the chair of the Students’ Representative Council, the Stellenbosch mayor and the CEO of Visit Stellenbosch joined me in iconic Victoria Street to take the picture accompanying this communiqué. Do look out for their messages in the local media as part of the joint marketing campaign we have launched especially for the return of our students and staff.

My message is simple: It is good to be back on campus; let’s keep it that way!

So, why are we back despite COVID-19? Under the current level-1 lockdown, higher education institutions may bring all their students and staff to their campuses. Yet we also have a more substantial underlying reason for our approach this year.

From an education point of view, as a world-class university, we are excited to be able to proceed with the academic project in a way that further enhances what we managed to achieve in difficult circumstances last year.

Therefore, in 2021, we want to move beyond emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment. We want to get back to face-to-face interaction as far as possible, augmented with online elements to offer our students an optimal learning experience.

I agree with higher education experts Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring who, in their book The Innovative University, state that “a university’s professors and face‐to‐face meeting spaces … are unique and potentially invaluable”. At SU in particular, I believe we have two factors in our favour:

·       Place – Our campuses, ideal for a transformative student experience, are located in one of the most beautiful parts of our country and boast top facilities and unparalleled extramural experiences.

·       People – SU is home to leading researchers and lecturers, and also offers comprehensive student support to ensure academic excellence, along with stimulating exposure to the diverse ideas of colleagues and classmates from across the country and the globe.

But, of course, we still are in the midst of a pandemic, so we require strict adherence to our comprehensive protocols and measures to combat COVID-19. Everyone coming to our campuses must self-screen using Higher Health’s HealthCheck app, which is available at

Our Campus Health Service, in collaboration with local and provincial health authorities and hospitals, is geared to attend to the well-being of our staff and students. But, at the end of the day, we each have to take responsibility for our own actions.

So, please wear your mask, maintain a safe physical distance from others, and sanitise your hands and surfaces. If we stick to this simple regimen – wherever we go – we stand a good chance of reducing the spread of COVID-19, and of thriving as institutions, communities and people.

Looking back on the past 12 months, we have much to celebrate. Yet SU has certainly not escaped the devastation, pain and loss caused by the coronavirus. Let us honour the memory of all who have lost their lives to COVID-19. May they rest in peace, and may their family, friends and colleagues find the strength to carry on.

Clearly, what initially began as a sprint early on in 2020, and soon turned into a marathon for the remainder of the year, is now an ultramarathon looming ahead of us for the foreseeable future. We will need to dig very deep to ensure that we maintain momentum, especially since we face other challenges as well. These include concerns about NSFAS funding (click here for our undertaking) and SU’s Language Policy (for our statement, click here).

I have no doubt, however, that we can overcome these challenges if we work together.

All the best for the year. As in 2020, the University’s overarching goals for 2021 again are to complete the academic year successfully and remain sustainable as a leading higher education institution. Throughout, the safety, health and well-being of our staff and students remains a top priority.

We don’t know what tomorrow may bring, but we do know we have to build the post-coronavirus future today. Let’s go forward together.

Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor