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.