UFS to pilot English as medium of instruction

University of the Free State Picture Credit: University of the Free State facebook page
University of the Free State Picture Credit: University of the Free State facebook page

English will be piloted as the official medium of instruction at the University of the Free State (UFS) next year after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein handed down judgment in the institute's favour yesterday.

"The effect of today's judgment is that the UFS may proceed to implement the new language policy in its pilot programme next year, pending the appeal of the review application which will only be heard early in 2017," said UFS spokeswoman Lacea Loader.

The court yesterday ruled against lobby group AfriForum and trade union Solidarity which opposed the new language policy being implemented from next year.

"The policy will be piloted in 2017 with first-year students in three faculties - law, health sciences and humanities. In these faculties, the majority of students indicated their preference to be taught in English.

"The Afrikaans-English policy will be maintained in the rest of the faculties in 2017 and phased out according to an implementation plan as from 2018."

In upholding the Bloemfontein High Court ruling in July which stopped the university from implementing the policy, the SCA said AfriForum had "acted without circumspection in seeking relief under section] 18 of the [Superior Courts] Act".

The appeal was upheld with costs, including the charges of two counsel.

"It purported to act on behalf of prospective first-year students, without any evidence showing that any student in the three affected faculties would suffer any adverse consequences if the judgment of the full court were to be suspended pending appeal."

In March, UFS decided to adopt a new multilingual language policy which would also see tutorials being given in Afrikaans and seSotho with effect from next year. This would replace the 2003 policy.

Last night, AfriForum and Solidarity said in a statement: "The ruling ... is regarded by AfriForum and Solidarity to be a temporary setback for the state of constitutionally-recognised language rights and Afrikaans as medium of instruction in South Africa."

Meanwhile, Wits students and management have reached an agreement on a second sitting for exams. "There will be two sittings for the examinations - the current sitting and a second sitting in December/January, depending on the faculty. Students who did not apply for deferred examinations within the required three days and who wish to apply for the second sitting are expected to do so by midday on Friday 25 November 2016," said the parties.

There was agreement that exams would not be disrupted.

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