University of Stellenbosch

AT ONE time an important centre of Afrikaans learning, the University of Stellenbosch has now adopted a more flexible language policy. Other languages are explicitly admitted – in particular, English and Xhosa. Nevertheless, Afrikaans as an academic language remains of paramount importance, but within the circumstances pertaining to the cultural and
linguistic diversity of post-apartheid South Africa.

The university’s nearly 185 departments, units, centres and institutes are sorted into ten faculties: AgriSciences, Arts and Social Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences (centred on the Tygerberg tertiary hospital), Law, Military Sciences, Science, and Theology. The university has further divided its main activities into ten strategically important ‘focus areas’. These are: language and culture within a multicultural society; the knowledge economy; building a new community; a competitive economy; biotechnology; sustainable biodiversity and the environment; the production and provision of food; the struggle against disease and the promotion of good health; technology for industry; and fundamental theory, mathematics and complexity.

The origins of this powerful university are rooted in the growth of organised education at the Cape from the late 17th century. By the last third of the 19th century, the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church was already in existence, as was the so-called Arts Department, a professorial division of the publicly subscribed Stellenbosch Gymnasium.

In 1879, Stellenbosch town celebrated its 200th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, it was decided to erect a building to permanently house the Arts Department. By 1886 the building was in use. In the years that followed, regular additions to the infrastructure and to academic activity were effected. A physics laboratory was installed; as was a library; and before long there existed separate chairs of philosophy, English literature, Greek and Latin, zoology, botany, history, and applied mathematics. The University of Stellenbosch finally came into being in 1918.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

In 2007, the Stellenbosch University had 23,439 students, all of whom were contact students. Of these, 14,789 were undergraduates and 7,741 postgraduates. The University phased out distance education from 2006.

Table 1: University of Stellenbosch - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2007)


Number of students enrolled per level of study

Major Field of Study

Total Number of Students (Headcount)

Under- graduate degree/ diploma Post-graduate degree/ diploma Masters Degree Doctoral Degree Other qualifications (short courses, certificates etc.)
Arts & Social Sciences 4,891 3,170


940 145 355
Science 2,199 1,505 633 263 199 61
Education 1,204 561 611 153 56 32
Agrisciences 1,451 1,128 307 199 93 16
Law 761 392 362 106 25  7
Theology 373 100 263 146 75 10
Economic & Management Sciences 7,057 4,337 2,566 1,329 66 154
Engineering 1,900 1,475 409 315 83 16
Health Sciences 3,116 1,711 1,153 673 68 252
Military Science 487 410 71 19 0 6
TOTALS 23,439 14,789 7,741 4,143 810 909

Source: University of Stellenbosch (

Table 2: University of Stellenbosch: Academic and Research staff (Actual data, 2007)

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Arts & Social Sciences 155
Science 122
Education 41
Agrisciences 70
Law 29
Theology 13
Economic & Management Sciences 150
Engineering 73
Health Sciences 133

Source: Stellenbosch University, 2007d


[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.