UFS gets new language policy

2016-03-23 06:00
UNIVERSTITY OF THE FREE STATE (UFS) council chairperson, Judge Ian van der Merwe, being dressed in a Basotho blanket by Morena Ntsane Mopeli. Prof. Jonathan Jansen looks on from the back.       Photo: Supplied

UNIVERSTITY OF THE FREE STATE (UFS) council chairperson, Judge Ian van der Merwe, being dressed in a Basotho blanket by Morena Ntsane Mopeli. Prof. Jonathan Jansen looks on from the back. Photo: Supplied

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PHUTHADITJHABA. – The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) recently approved a new language policy with an overwhelming majority during its historic meeting held on the Qwaqwa Campus.

In the newly approved policy, the university commits to embed and enable a language-rich environment committed to multilingualism, with particular attention to Afrikaans, Sesotho, isiZulu and other languages represented on the three campuses situated in the Free State and Qwaqwa.

Based on the core values of inclusivity and multilingualism, the following principles in the newly approved policy were approved by the council:

1. English will be the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level on the three campuses situated in Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa.

2. Multilingualism will be supported among other activities by an expanded tutorial system especially designed for first year students.

3. In particular, professional programmes such as teacher education and the training of students in Theology who wish to enter the ministry in traditional Afrikaans speaking churches, where there is a clear market need, the parallel medium English/Afrikaans and Sesotho/Zulu continues. This arrangement must not undermine the values of inclusivity and diversity endorsed by the UFS.

4. The primary formal language of the university administration will be English with sufficient flexibility for the eventual practice of multilingualism across the university.

5. Formal student life interactions would be in English, while multilingualism is encouraged in all social interactions.

“This is a major step forward for the UFS. I commend council for the constructive and positive manner in which the discussion took place,” says Judge Ian van der Merwe, chairperson of the UFS Council.

The university furthermore committed in the newly approved policy to:

1. Ensuring that language is not a barrier to equality of access, opportunity and success in academic programmes or in access to university administration.

2. Promoting the provision of academic literacy, especially in English, for all undergraduate students.

3. Ensuring that language is not used or perceived as a tool for social exclusion of staff or students on any of its campuses.

4. Promoting a pragmatic learning and administrative environment committed to and accommodative of linguistic diversity within the regional, national and international environments in which the UFS operates.

5. Contributing to the development of Sesotho and isiZulu as higher education languages within the context of the needs of the university’s different campuses.

6. The continuous development of Afrikaans as an academic language.

7. Recognising and promoting South African Sign Language and Braille.

The approval of a new policy comes after a mandate was given to the university management on 5 June 2015 by council to conduct a review of the institutional language policy through a comprehensive process of consultation with all university stakeholders. A Language committee was subsequently established by the university management committee (UMC) to undertake a comprehensive review of the parallel-medium policy, which was approved by council on 6 June 2003. The committee also had to make recommendations on the way forward with respect to the university’s language policy. During its meeting on 4 December 2015, Council adopted guidelines from the report of the language committee regarding the development of a new policy for the university.

The newly approved language policy will be phased in as from January 2017 according to an implementation plan.

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