Stellenbosch University has apologised "unconditionally" for trauma caused by a research article which has come under fire from academics, political parties and the public.

Cape Town - Stellenbosch University on Tuesday apologised "unconditionally" for trauma caused by a research article which has come under fire from academics, political parties and the public.

The study, which was conducted by Sharné Nieuwoudt, Kasha Elizabeth Dickie, Carla Coetsee, Louise Engelbrecht and Elmarie Terblanche, which found that coloured women in South Africa have an increased risk of low-cognitive functioning as they presented low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours.

 A number of academics called on the study to be removed from a UK-based academic journal publishing site while the Psychological Society of SA's division for research and methodology said the methodology used in the research was flawed.

“The article draws on colonial stereotypes of ‘coloured’ women, and portrays them as intellectually deficient, making broad, reckless and injurious generalisations on the basis of a flawed methodology,” said the society.

On Tuesday Professor Eugene Cloete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, said in a statement on the Maties website that the university apologises "unconditionally for the pain and the anguish which resulted from this article". 

"Stellenbosch University acknowledges the severe trauma and anger among members of the general public, Stellenbosch communities, University stakeholders and our campus community caused by the publication of an article 'Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Coloured South African women'," Cloete said.

"We apologise unconditionally for the pain and the anguish which resulted from this article. We also have empathy towards current and past staff members, our students and our alumni who have had to endure criticism for their association with our institution."

Cloete said the Rectorate has decided to request a thorough investigation into all aspects of this study, guided by the SU Policy for Responsible Research Conduct, as well as the SU procedure for the investigation of allegations of breach of research norms and standards. 

"Based on the outcome of this investigation we will take corrective action, as required."

Cloete added: "In our Centenary year (2018) Stellenbosch University adopted a restitution statement acknowledging its inextricable connection with generations past, present and future, as well as its contribution towards the injustices of the past. I quote: “For this we have deep regret. We apologise unreservedly to the communities and individuals who were excluded from the historical privileges that SU enjoyed and we honour the critical Matie voices of that time who would not be silenced. In responsibility towards the present and future generations, SU commits itself unconditionally to the ideal of an inclusive world class university in and for Africa."

"As part of its Vision 2040, SU has developed five values that inform our ethics code, i.e.: accountability; respect; equity; compassion and excellence. We are committed to live by these values."

Earlier this week the Psychological Society of SA's division for research and methodology said the methodology used in the research was fatally flawed.

“We are disturbed and strongly opposed to the practice of misusing racial classification in scientific research and the consequent perpetuation of stigma, discrimination and racism as exemplified in the publication of 'Age and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Coloured South African women' in Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition.

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