The Council of Stellenbosch University (SU) today (2
December 2021) approved the proposed new Language Policy for the institution
with an overwhelming majority. This marks the end of a thorough, comprehensive
and consultative revision process that started in October 2020. The 2021 revision forms part of a five-year revision
cycle prescribed by the policy itself.
26 November 2021, Senate approved the final draft of the Language Policy
(2021) by an overwhelming majority, and recommended the document to Council. According to the Higher Education Act and the SU
Statute, the Language Policy is the only policy to be approved by Council with
the concurrence of Senate. Two weeks earlier, the
Institutional Forum (IF) also adopted the final draft, and recommended it to
“The revised Language Policy reaffirms that Stellenbosch
University is a national asset in a diverse society,” said Council chair Mr George
Steyn. “Without losing sight of the fact that SU
also serves continental and global communities, the University recommits itself
to multilingualism by using the three official languages of the Western Cape,
namely Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa.
This unlocks the intellectual wealth inherent in our
Access and success
Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor:
Learning and Teaching, under whose portfolio the Language Policy falls, welcomed
“Equitable access and student success are highly
valued at SU, and language is key in this,” he said. “Our revised Language
Policy will advance student success, as it creates a conducive teaching and
learning environment – both in and outside the classroom, in student
communities and in social spaces.”
Social cohesion on campus
Prof Ramjugernath added: “I am a strong believer that multilingualism
can assist us greatly in building social cohesion on campus. Instead of
dividing us, language can be used in a way that builds relationships and
fosters mutual understanding.
“We respect language rights and believe that our students
have more choices, more access and a better future as a result of the approach followed
in our Language Policy.”
“When we refer to multilingualism, it relates to
institutional and individual multilingualism, but also includes multilingualism
as a means to promote inclusivity and an appreciation of the value of diversity,”
Prof Ramjugernath continued. “Multilingualism goes beyond creating spaces and
structures for the use of multiple languages in academic, administrative and
social contexts, or individuals’ willingness to learn multiple languages. It is
also about an attitude, a mindset, that we would like to foster at our
The 2021 SU Language Policy elaborates as follows on
the benefits of this approach: “Multilingualism equips students to tap into a
broader and more diverse knowledge base; to engage with society in a way that
speaks to the heart, not just the mind; to be dynamic professionals, able to
better demonstrate problem-solving, listening and interpersonal skills; and to
be well-rounded individuals who can make informed decisions that take more than
just their own thinking into consideration.”
As the 2016 Language Policy passed constitutional
muster in the 2019 judgment by the Constitutional Court, the Language Policy
Revision Task Team used that policy as point of departure. The task team was
made up of representatives of all ten SU’s faculties and its professional and
administrative support services as well as student representatives, with
technical experts co-opted as necessary.
The task team
compiled the first draft of the revised policy early this year and released the
document for public participation in March/April 2021. The first draft, along
with a response report of all inputs received, subsequently served before the
Rectorate, faculty boards, Senate, the IF and Council for their feedback.
Having considered all comments, the task team
developed a second draft, which was again released for public participation in
July/August. In September, the second draft and another response report of
inputs received during the second round of participation were submitted to the
Rectorate, faculty boards, Senate, IF and Council.
The task team
then completed the third and final draft of the 2021 Language Policy for
submission to the IF and Senate in November, and to Council for final
consideration and approval today. The final draft also served before the
respective faculty boards in October and November.
SU consulted widely on all drafts of the proposed
Language Policy – the year-long revision process included a total of 24
meetings – and the task team considered all inputs.
The policy provides for the use of Afrikaans, English
and isiXhosa in learning and teaching at SU, as well as in communication (see
highlights below). It also specifies the extent to which each language is to be
used in various scenarios.
Learning and teaching
Afrikaans and English are designated as SU’s primary
languages of learning and teaching, but translanguaging in multiple languages
is encouraged to support and enhance learning. IsiXhosa as an academic language
will receive particular attention for the purpose of its incremental introduction
into various disciplines, in accordance with student needs, where reasonably
All official internal communication – i.e.
communication from the Chancellor, Council, Senate, Rector or another member of
top management to the entire University – will be conveyed in Afrikaans,
English and isiXhosa. Afrikaans, English and, where reasonably practicable,
isiXhosa are SU’s languages of external communication as well. And in student
communities (residences and private student organisation wards), the use of language
should ensure that everyone is included and can participate.
policy gives effect to the South African Constitution and the Language Policy
Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions in relation to language use
in the University’s academic, administrative, professional and social contexts.
Policy provides for mechanisms to ensure academic oversight, effective
management and good governance relating to language implementation. This occurs
within a framework that enables faculties to develop language implementation
plans as well as procedures for accountability and reporting to relevant
The SU Language
Centre will provide support, and the policy also outlines feedback, monitoring
and conflict resolution mechanisms, including complaint procedures.
revised SU Language Policy will be implemented from January 2022.
Among others, the following key documents are
available on SU’s dedicated language webpage at www.sun.ac.za/language:
- Language Policy (2021)
(in Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa)
- Context document for
revision of Language Policy (2021)
- Main opinion about the
legality of proposed 2021 Language Policy
- Supplementary opinion
about the legality of final draft of the proposed 2021 Language Policy
Answers to frequently asked questions
about language at SU, as well as statistics, are available at www.sun.ac.za/english/about-us/multilingualism.
Infographic about the 2021 Language Policy
Please note: The infographic explains policy highlights in simple terms, but the policy itself remains the only formal source to be consulted for official detail about its principles and provisions.