Cape Town - Stellenbosch University’s student profile is set to change in the next five years from about 67 percent white and 33 percent coloured, black and Indian students to a targeted 50 percent white and 50 percent coloured, black and Indian student population.

On Monday, the university council approved the institutional intention and strategy for 2013 to 2018, which was developed after the council asked the university management to develop an action plan “to create an institution where a welcoming culture, equity, diversity and transformation can flourish”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the university said the decision made provision for, among other things, the changing teaching preferences of students and the strengthening of Afrikaans as academic language.

Mohamed Shaikh, senior director: communication and liaison, said there would be Afrikaans and English classes with “educational interpreting into the other language” (for example, Afrikaans classes to English, and vice versa). An interpretation service would be used.

“The first phase will be in 2014, with a view to progressively move to a fully bilingual offering, en route to 2018.”

Rector and vice-chancellor Professor Russel Botman said the greater use of parallel-medium tuition and educational interpreting would enable the university be completely accessible to English-speaking students, while also strengthening the position of Afrikaans.

“In this way, the university will be able to reach its diversity objectives much faster, and by 2018 the institution should have a diversity profile where coloured, black and Indian students will make up 50 percent of the number of enrolled students. In addition, it opens new opportunities for the university to renew and expand its programme offering, and to enter new markets in the interest of sustainability.”

Shaikh said independent research showed a significant move in secondary schools to dual-medium instruction.

“As a consequence, there is a remarkable change in the preferred language of instruction to English among students in tertiary education, for which the university had to gear itself in its transformational endeavours.”

He said other key points of the plan were to fast-track the change in the demographic profile of students and staff, but moreover to transform the institution on a wider scale in terms of academic programmes on offer, as well as new modes of teaching and learning mediated by technology.

The university’s new residence placement policy was also approved at Monday’s council meeting.

“The point of departure for the new policy is placement based on academic merit, supported by additional criteria of nationality, language, race, first generation and financial need to enhance diversity and inclusivity in all our residences,” Shaikh said.

* A new residence placement policy for Stellenbosch University will make it easier for students to get into residences fairly, says the chairman of the student representative council.

Clinton du Preez said the SRC was glad that the controversial policy had been accepted by the council on Monday.

The university said the new policy was placement based on academic merit supported by additional criteria. These included whether the student was a South African citizen or an international student, language preference, ethnicity, whether the applicant was a first-generation student, and economic class. - Cape Argus