Learn more about the language policy change

Posted on February 01, 2019

From 1 January, English became the language of teaching and learning for all first-year programmes. Tukkievaria spoke to Rikus Delport, Director of the Department of University Relations, about the new language policy.

What is some of the background to this policy change?

In 2016, the University of Pretoria (UP) council, in concurrence with the Senate, adopted a new policy to make English the primary language of instruction. It was also decided that the use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction would be gradually phased out. After a delay due to court action, English became the language of teaching and learning for all first-year programmes from 1 January 2019.

How was this policy decided upon?

This Council and Senate decision followed an extensive consultation process and recommendations from all interested parties, including the language work stream that was formed as part of the Transformation Lekgotla and the Independent Transformation Panel that focused on submissions from external stakeholders.

Much of the decision from the various groups was informed by the fact that the percentage of students who reported their home language to be Afrikaans decreased from 85% to 30% between 1992 and 2015. In 2016 approximately 18% of students expressed a preference for Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

What are some of the exceptions to this policy?

From 1 January 2019 English will be the language of teaching and learning for all first-year programmes. The only exception is where students are studying other languages and in programmes with profession-specific language outcomes, subject to approval by Senate. English will also be the language of official communication and administration on all campuses and in residences. Where requested and feasible, administrative services may be provided in other South African languages.

What about students who applied before 2019?

Students who registered prior to 2019, including those who registered in 2018 for the first time, will continue to receive lectures, tutorials, study guides and assessment material (question papers, assignments and the like) in Afrikaans for those programmes which were offered in Afrikaans at the time of enrolment, provided that the class size remains practically feasible and it is academically justifiable. Where assessment and question papers are set in Afrikaans, currently enrolled students will also be allowed to answer in Afrikaans.

- Author Shakira Hoosain

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