The new language policy provides a host of opportunities for reimagining universities in Africa

Universities must be globally competitive but we must never ignore our local context. That was the message Professor Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), brought to the Colloquium on the New Language Policy for Higher Education.

He was speaking on the topic, The opportunities presented by the new language policy framework by reimagining the idea of a university in Africa, at the plenary session on Reimagining Engagement and Transformation.

Stellenbosch University hosted last month’s two-day event, held under the auspices of Universities South Africa (USAf), and its Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages (CoPAL).

Petersen said the local context for languages at UFS meant prioritising Sesotho and isiZulu. “And I think the experiences and the value that could bring to the university, and how we engage with the local environment, is going to be important, and something the new language policy framework will allow,” he said.

He said he resonated with what Professor Ahmed Bawa, CEO of USAf, had said at the opening of the colloquium about universities being public institutions and, as such, carried the expectation that they should impact social change and engage with their societies. “The question is to what extent do they engage with their societies, how else could they, and what would be the most comfortable way of engaging?” said Petersen.


Read the full story on the Universities South Africa (UASf) website.

The state of language policies at public institutions

As universities enter the second half of 2022, they are ramping up efforts to accelerate progress toward implementing the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions requirements, which came into effect in 2022.

Welcoming members of Universities South Africa’s Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages (CoPAL) at their third meeting for the year on 22 June, USAf’s Director: Operations and Sector Support, Dr Linda Meyer, commended them for the milestones achieved in the past two years. She encouraged them to maintain that momentum for the next five years if this group was to realise a more significant impact on the system’s transformation by entrenching multilingualism in teaching and learning.

“We cannot look at the academe the way we did in the past. In our pursuit for making multilingualism a success, we must not lose sight of the systemic and political foundations, as well as institutional dynamics at play,” Dr Meyer said. She went on to say that “we cannot be celebrating people completing PhDs in their mother tongue when that should be a norm and not an exception to the rule. We need to push for more collaboration to build coherency in our actions.”

In his response to Dr Meyer, the Chairperson of CoPAL, who is also the Executive Director at the North-West University-based South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR), Professor Langa Khumalo, agreed that “we need to look at the broader ecosystem to identify areas where we can influence change to a bigger effect. I continue to appreciate USAf’s support in our work – which encourages us to push harder to normalise multilingualism… I thank Dr Meyer for her insightful words.”

Read the full story on the Universities South Africa (USAf) website.

Colloquium on the New Language Policy Framework for Higher Education

Vice-chancellors and language experts from all 26 public universities met virtually from 28 to 29 September to facilitate a common understanding on the New Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions, and to contemplate ways to implement this policy framework.

This policy framework comes into effect from January 2022. The Colloquium, hosted virtually from Stellenbosch University, was a first in a series of engagements to be hosted by universities and under the leadership of the C0PAL.

The purpose was to:

  • Provide a platform for a robust intellectual engagement in the current debates on the New Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions.
  • Further unpack the philosophical discourse and the implications of the newly gazetted policy framework, as well as the broader systemic issues affecting and foregrounding multilingualism, transformation, and decolonisation within the context of the CoPAL and the sector agenda.
  • Explore strategies to harness and deploy the necessary resources to support Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in successfully implementing the policy framework.

Alongside vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors and language experts drawn from USAf’s CoPAL, other delegates in attendance were a retired member of the judiciary and senior officials from the departments of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Science and Innovation (DSI), Basic Education and (DBE), Arts and Culture. Senior representatives of the Pan South African Language Board were also in attendance (PSALB). At its peak, about 200 delegates had linked in to attend this purely online event.

Read more about the event on the Universities South Africa (USAf) website