Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University (Afrikaans: Universiteit Stellenbosch) is an internationally recognised university which is situated in the town of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Other nearby universities are the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape.

Stellenbosch University designed and manufactured Africa's first microsatellite, SUNSAT, launched in 1999.

Students are also nicknamed Maties. Some claim the term arises from their maroon rugby colors: a tamatie is the Afrikaans translation for tomato. It is more likely to come from the Afrikaans colloquialism matie (meaning "buddy" or "mate") originally used diminutively by the students of the University of Cape Town's precursor, the South African College.


The town of Stellenbosch is the second oldest in South Africa. As early as 1685, when the Dutch Reformed Church founded its second parish here, a beginning was made with regular school instruction. By the 1840s the Cape Colony was operating a system of centrally controlled Public Schools. Under this system, Stellenbosch was recognized as a divisional centre for education. In 1866 under the new Education Act the local Public School was reorganized as a First Class Public School, also to be known as the Stellenbosch Gymnasium. To help meet demand, the Stellenbosch Gymnasium in 1874, under the Higher Education Act, set up its own professorial division. This, called the Arts Department, may be regarded as the germ of the present Faculties of Arts and Science. Initially it consisted of the Rector (the Rev. Charles Anderson) and two professors, namely Prof. A. MacDonald for the Classics and English Literature and Prof. G. Gordon for Mathematics and Physical Science.

In 1879 the town of Stellenbosch celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary; in commemoration it was resolved to erect a large and suitable College building to house the Arts Department. The foundation stone of the new building was laid by the Administrator, Sir George Cumin Strachan, on 22 December 1880.

In 1881 the Arts Department received its charter as a College, and by a special Act of Parliament the status and the constitution of the Stellenbosch College were conferred upon it. It was provided at the same time that the Gymnasium should remain under the control of the College Council. The new building was completed and taken occupation of in phases. The formal opening took place on 6 November 1886. In 1887, the jubilee year of Queen Victoria’s reign, Her Majesty consented to the College’s name being changed to the Victoria College of Stellenbosch. In 1887 the Agriculture Department began with five students. In 1898, although the number of agriculture students had increased to 31, the Agriculture Department was taken away from the Victoria College and removed to Elsenburg. Twenty years later there was another reversal of policy, a full Faculty of Agriculture being established in the new University of Stellenbosch.

The period from 1897 to 1900 was also important on account of the construction of the Physics Laboratory and the Christian Marais Library, both made possible by the generosity of the brothers JH and CL Marais. In 1899 the "senior matriculation class", 44 strong, was transferred from the College to the school, leaving the Victoria College with 116 fully matriculated "Arts" students. About five years later a strong movement began among friends and past students of the College for a further extension of its activity. This resulted in the separation of the chairs of Philosophy and English Literature, and also of Greek and Latin, the establishment of chairs in Zoology, Botany and History and, shortly afterwards, in Applied Mathematics as well.

When the Union of South Africa was founded, the problem of the reform of higher education came up for discussion once again. In place of only one university, the government granted charters to three, with their respective centres at Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Pretoria.

The creation of a university at Stellenbosch was made possible by Mr Jan Marais of Coetzenburg; to the cause of higher education at Stellenbosch, he had donated the sum of £100 000. The University Act, by which the Victoria College became an independent university, with all its privileges and duties, was passed by the Union Parliament in 1916. The number of registered students at the College in the last year before its promotion to university status was 503. In the same year the teaching staff numbered 40, 22 of whom were professors and 18 lecturers. The University Act, replacing the Victoria College by the University of Stellenbosch, came into effect on 2 April 1918. The decades since then have seen its student numbers grow from about 500 to some 22 000.


Stellenbosch is a university town with a population of about 90,000 (excluding students). It is located about 50 kilometres from Cape Town and is situated on the banks of the Eerste Rivier ("First River") in the famous wine-growing region and is encircled by picturesque mountains. Teaching at Stellenbosch University is divided between the main Stellenbosch campus, the Tygerberg campus, where the Faculty of Health Sciences is situated, the Bellville Park campus, where the graduate School of Business is, and the Saldanha campus, housing the Faculty of Military Science.


Stellenbosch University is a predominantly Afrikaans medium university, especially at undergraduate and honours course level. However, students are allowed to write their assignments, tests and examinations in both English and Afrikaans. The language of tuition also varies depending on the faculty, with the Arts faculty for example being 40% English, most if not all courses are lectured bilingually and the language of most handouts or prescribed material is determined by the student.

At postgraduate level the language of tuition is determined by the composition of the class. The majority of advanced postgraduate courses are conducted in English. According to the current language profile of the university, 60% of its students state Afrikaans as their home language, 32% have English as their home language, whilst only 1.6% of students have Xhosa as their home language.

The language policy is still an ongoing issue for the University, since it is one of the very few tertiary institutions left in South Africa offering tuition in Afrikaans. Because of this, it is held in very high regard by the Afrikaner community, with the university even being considered a central pillar of Afrikaner life. Most other institutions have always been English or have changed over time to an English-only policy.

Faculties and Schools

Stellenbosch University consists of about 150 departments divided amongst 10 faculties. It also has more than 40 research (and other) institutions.

The faculties that are situated on the main campus are:

The faculties and schools that are not situated on the main campus are:

Student societies

  • African Christian Democratic Party Youth League
  • Catholic Students Society
  • Adam Tas Vereniging
  • Adlib-Improv
  • Anglican Students Society
  • Bhakti Yoga and Vegetarian Society
  • Berg en Toer Klub (Mountain and Tour Club)
  • Black Students Association
  • Canticum Novum (Stellenbosch Student Church Choir)
  • DASUS (German Students at Stellenbosch University)
  • Every Nation (His People Christian Church)
  • Golden Key Academic Honours Society
  • Gabonese Research and Scientific Discussion Group
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Landsdiensbeweging
  • Lesbigay
  • Matie Community Service
  • Matie Dance Society
  • Matie Productions
  • New Apostolic Church Society
  • Stellenbosch Poetry Society
  • Quercus Staatmakers (Voortrekkers)
  • Shofar Church Society
  • Chess Society
  • Stellenbosch Baptists Society
  • Stellenbosch Gemeente
  • The Bible Talks Student Church (TBT)
  • UNASA-Stellenbosch (United Nations South Africa)
  • Debating Society
  • Stellenbosch University Choir
  • US Otaku
  • Vineyard Christian Fellowship
  • Wynkultuurvereniging (Wine Culture Society)

  • Agriculture Students Association (ASA)
  • Consumer Science Society
  • Economic and Management Sciences Society
  • English Society
  • Geology Society
  • Industrial Psychology Society
  • Juridical Society of the law faculty
  • Sciences Student Society
  • Stellenbosch Forestry Student Association
  • Theological Student Society
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Student Committee (BASC)

Facilities and services

The university has an extensive library, the J.S. Gericke Library, which is notable for being subterranean, on two levels, and occupying a surface area equivalent to two and half rugby fields. The library has collections scattered around the campus outside of the main facility, and all of which are catalogued on a computerised database, using the university's original mainframe, a Univac. There are several other satellite libraries servicing the different faculties, including the Theology Library, Law Library and Tygerberg Medical Library.

Stellenbosch University also has a modern Conservatory, including two concert halls where regular concerts are held. The larger of the two, the Endler Hall, is famous for its excellent acoustics and modern recording technology suitable for quick post-production of live concerts. The Conservatory is the home of the internationally acclaimed Stellenbosch University Choir, who, along with being the oldest South African choir have received numerous awards over seas and is noted as the finest choir in the country.

The university also boast a fully fledged 430 seater theatre, known as the H.B. Thom Theatre and an open air amphitheatre. Accompanying these facilities is the university's own drama department, under the guidance of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The department regularly puts on plays, dramas, productions, cabarets and musicals.

The Langenhoven Students' Centre (Neelsie) houses the Student Representative Council, a food court, a cinema, a post office, a shopping centre, an advice office and all the student societies offices. Student bands and various entertainment and activity promotions usually appear in the main food court during lunch hour.

The university has its own radio station known as MFM (Matie FM), situated in the Neelsie. It broadcasts over the entire Stellenbosch area at 92.6 FM. Broadcasting a mix of music, news, entertainment and campus news. The universtity also distributes two regular publications, appearing every fortnight, Die Matie for its students and KampUS for its staff. An official yearbook, Die Stellenbosch Student, is published annually and presented to all graduating students.


Sports facilities for the more than 30 competitive and recreational sports that are supported by the university include two sport stadiums, two large swimming pools (one under roof), the D.F. Malan Center, a multi-purpose center for ceremonies and indoor sports, numerous playing fields, including an Astroturf hockey field, and a modern gymnasium. A high-performance center is also being built as of 2006.

The university offers the following sports to its students:

Stellenbosch has served as a test site in 2006 for a set of proposed modifications to the rules of rugby union, commonly referred to as the Stellenbosch Laws.


The university has various Residences, or Koshuise (Afrikaans for Residence). Students who are placed in any one of these residences are under the supervision of the warden concerned (Koshuis vader), who in turn is assisted by a number of senior students acting as advisors, known as the House Committee or Huiskomitee. House Committee members advise and assist students with a variety of needs, monitor facility security and maintenance, and plan educational and social programs for students.

Each of the residences has modern laundry facilities and a common "living room" area for social activities and watching television. All the women's residences, and some of the men's, also have a communal and/or private lounge area where visitors can be received and entertained. Many of the men's residences have a pub (Koshuis klub) attached to the building.

Despite the large number of the places reserved for students in University residences, houses and flats, university accommodation is still very limited. For students who are not accepted in university housing, another option is to board either in a private house or flat.

Student in private lodgings can become a member of the Private Students' Organisation (PSO), also knows as Private Wards. There are 6 PSO wards, a student is assigned to a ward according to their lodgings in the town of Stellenbosch. Students who commute to and from the university are assigned to one of the two mixed wards according to which campus they attend. As of 8 October 2008, four new PSO wards have been commissioned.

Men's Residences:

Women's Residences:

  • Erica
  • Harmonie
  • Heemstede
  • Huis Francie van Zijl (Tygerberg campus)
  • Huis Neetling
  • Huis Ten Bosch
  • Irene
  • Lydia
  • Minerva
  • Monica
  • Nemesia
  • Nerina
  • Sonop
  • Serruria

Mixed Residences

  • Goldfields
  • Hippokrates (Tygerberg campus)
  • Kerkenberg (Tygerberg campus)
  • Metanoia
  • Academia
  • Meerhoff (Tygerberg Campus)

University Flats For senior, post graduate and international students.

  • Concordia
  • Huis De Villiers
  • Huis MacDonald
  • Lobelia

Private Wards

  • Pieke (Men's)
  • Aristea (Women's)
  • Aurora (Mixed)
  • Libertas (Men's)
  • Oude Molen (Men's)
  • Osler [PSO-Tygerberg] (Mixed)

Notable alumni

External links

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