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Compiled by Devina Haripersad

Senior Business/Finance journalist

Stellenbosch University apologises to students over language policy

Student leaders had instructed incoming students to only speak English during their welcome period.

Stellenbosch University has apologised to students in two of its residences after a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) investigation found that the institution had breached the language rights of Afrikaans-speaking students.

The SAHRC report revealed that the university’s student leaders instructed the students to only speak English during their welcome period in 2021 in certain residences.

The DA and FF Plus filed a complaint with the SAHRC in March 2021.

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In a statement, the university pledged to provide extensive training to student leaders on its language policy. Amending the language policy will also be considered.

“We will also ask the language committee of the council to consider whether a change is necessary to the language policy to provide the clarity suggested by the SAHRC. We acknowledge that our journey of transformation requires constant attention and we reiterate our commitment to a multilingual, multicultural university which respects human rights and dignity and where all our stakeholders feel welcome.”


The university’s council said it intends to implement the recommendations ahead of the May deadline, although it wishes to respond more fully to some aspects of the report.

The university, however, stated that the language policy would not have prohibited students from speaking their language of choice in social circumstances.

Established in 1866, Stellenbosch University is the oldest university in the Western Cape province and has a reputation as one of the top universities in Africa.

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In 2002, the Department of Education developed and promulgated the Language Policy for Higher Education. The aim of the policy was to promote multilingualism in institutional policies and practices.

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