Wim de Villiers named new Stellenbosch University VC

Wim de Villiers will be Stellenbosch University’s new vice-chancellor, the university announced on Monday afternoon.

He succeeds the university’s first black vice-chancellor, Russel Botman, who died suddenly of a heart attack in June aged 60.

De Villiers returns to Stellenbosch from the University of Cape Town where he was Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

The 55-year old was born and bred in Stellenbosch, where he went to high school and whose university he received a bachelor of medicine and surgery from.

He will take office next year “but the exact date is not known yet”, the university’s statement said. It said chief operating officer Leopoldt Van Huyssteen will stay on as acting vice-chancellor until De Villiers takes over.


The university council’s chairperson, George Steyn, described De Villiers in the statement as an “excellent academic and manager”.

After graduating with his medical degree, De Villiers travelled to England where, in 1995, he obtained a doctor of philosophy degree in Immunology at Oxford University. He then moved on to the United States where he practiced as a gastroenterologist and held numerous senior positions at the University of Kentucky, including head of gastroenterology. 

He also obtained a master’s degree in health-care management from Harvard University. He was away from South Africa for a total of 18 years.

De Villiers inherits the leadership of a historically white, Afrikaans university that University of the Free State vice-chancellor, Jonathan Jansen, described as a “rock-solid cultural monolith”, in the week following Botman’s death.

‘Right-wing alumni’
Jansen attacked the university’s “right-wing alumni” and the Afrikaans press in an opinion piece, which questioned who was responsible for the tragedy.

“Those who do not read the Afrikaans papers would be blissfully unaware of the role of gossip, rumour, insult, intimidation, side-lining and sheer slander this gentle theologian had to bear for the past few years,” Jansen wrote.

“The more he pushed for transformation, the more he was mercilessly vilified by right-wing alumni, aided and abetted by the Afrikaans press.”

He quoted Botman’s sister-in-law saying at the funeral: “Dark clouds of evil were gathering around him”.

He said some of the Afrikaans universities, like Stellenbosch, “have a perfect alibi for not transforming – Afrikaans. Afrikaans as a language is vital to our multilingual democracy, and must expand, but as the handmaiden of social justice, not racial exclusion.”

The Monday statement by Stellenbosch University quotes De Villiers saying he supports academic excellence in all three of the University’s core activities – research, learning and teaching, as well as community interaction – but is also in favour of differentiation.

“Each university cannot do everything. We must distinguish ourselves through excellent research that is locally relevant and globally competitive. We also need to increase our number of postgraduate students,” De Villiers said in the statement.

The statement said De Villiers “believes that the university’s new policy on multilingualism, which was adopted by the university council on November 22 and makes provision for increasing the lecture offering in both Afrikaans and English, will help attract more international students and lecturers”.

De Villiers was quoted saying: “We must just make sure that the language policy and plan are implemented correctly. I realised overseas what Afrikaans means to me, so I am glad that we are extending it academically – but this is also necessary for English, which provides access to the rest of the world.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC’s rotten apples on the chopping block

Now that the NEC has finalised its step-aside guidelines for those facing corruption charges, a swathe of officials will struggle to cling to their positions

Sisulu and Dlodlo punted to be on their way out

Because President Cyril Ramaphosa won the step-aside order in the ANC’s national executive committee, a cabinet reshuffle looms, with Sisulu and Dlodlo’s names on comrades’ lips

More top stories

State rejects pyramid-schemer’s plea: ‘I stole the money, and plead...

The state has rejected fraudster Roderick Cole-Edwards’ guilty plea for R11.6-million pyramid-scheme theft

Hot topic: Is crypto’s climate cost higher than its value?

The recent blockchain boom has been followed by concerns over its impact on the environment

The plight of the ‘missing middle’ is no joke, Nzimande

Parents who, on paper, look like they can afford to pay their children’s university fees often can’t. They also miss out on funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

More ethnically diverse bone marrow donors needed to save lives

The myth that regenerative stem cells are body parts has led to donor reluctance
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…