Academic and professional literacies - Stellenbosch University Language Centre

Academic and professional literacies

Do you speak ‘university’? What are ‘academic literacies’ in a university context?

Internationally and in South Africa, academic and professional literacies are increasingly viewed as an essential component of the formal academic higher education curriculum, for undergraduates to overcome the articulation gap, as well as for postgraduate students. There is a growing view that students in higher education should be taught not only content knowledge, but also how to learn, how to acquire knowledge and how to communicate knowledge in academic, social and professional settings.

The ability to cope with academic discourse is not an inherent skill. Academic discourse is a language of its own; a ‘new’ language that most students have not used before entering university, regardless of their backgrounds (Bourdieu and Passeron 1990).

Students enter university with differing backgrounds and varying needs, but in all cases there is a gap between high school and the current university system. This gap is known as the articulation gap: the difference between what learners are able to do when they leave high school and what is required from them to succeed at university when they enter higher education.

By its very nature, university education is text-driven, and language used in academic texts is naturally context-reduced when one compares this type of language to normal conversation, which requires a high level of contextual understanding to make meaning. Academic discourse stresses the way that language is used, but includes values and attitudes, ideology and the influence of social class and biography on academic literacies (Gee, 1992). In its approach to academic literacies, Stellenbosch University (SU) takes these and other factors into consideration, as does the Language Centre. The Conceptual Framework for Academic Literacies at SU guides our efforts. (Also available in Afrikaans.)

The Language Centre’s credit-bearing academic and professional literacies modules are tailor-made in response to the unique needs of each SU faculty, and aim to help students to bridge the gap between school and university. Our lecturers see learning as a partnership, where teaching activities facilitate knowledge-building and actively engage students in their own learning.

What is the difference between academic literacies and language learning?

Developing or acquiring academic literacy is linked to developing knowledge of a language, but it is not the same as learning a new language. For example, a student may learn Afrikaans or isiXhosa for communicative purposes, or a student may learn about Afrikaans or isiXhosa as a language. The student would however need to learn these languages for the purpose of communicating efficiently in the context of higher education for them to be academically literate in these languages. To learn Afrikaans, English or isiXhosa through the Language Centre, click here.

Meet our team

Arné Binneman
Arné Binneman
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies and Language Learning Hub

| Tel: 021 808 9731

Carmen Brewis
Carmen Brewis
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Eduard de Kock
Eduard de Kock
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Erica George
Erica George
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 2695

Erina Basson
Erina Basson
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 3627

Faika Haroun
Faika Haroun
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 9102

Fiona Stanford
Fiona Stanford
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 2798

Helga Sykstus
Helga Sykstus
Lecturer and coordinator
Language Learning Hub and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4004

Jeanene Olivier
Jeanene Olivier
Administrative officer
Language and Communication Development

| Tel: 021 808 9015

Kabelo Sebolai
Kabelo Sebolai
Deputy director
Language Centre
| Tel: 021 808 2231
Madelé du Plessis
Madelé du Plessis
Lecturer and blended learning coordinator
Academic literacies

| Tel: 021 808 3485

Marguerite van der Waal
Marguerite van der Waal
Head and facilitator
Language Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 3096

Marisca Coetzee
Marisca Coetzee
Lecturer and coordinator
Reading Lab and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 2811

Nanette van den Berg
Nanette van den Berg
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Nawaal Jansen
Nawaal Jansen
Operations and finance officer
Language Centre

| Tel: 021 808 9096

Nwabisa Madikane
Nwabisa Madikane
Administrative officer
Language and Communication Development

| Tel: 021 808 2905

René Wheeler
René Wheeler
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Risha Lötter
Risha Lötter
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Susan van Zyl-Bekker
Susan van Zyl-Bekker
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 2905

Vernita Beukes
Vernita Beukes
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies and Afrikaans courses

| Tel: 021 808 2636

Vicki Fourie
Vicki Fourie
Interpreter and facilitator
Interpreting Service and Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 4184

Ydalene Coetsee
Ydalene Coetsee
Lecturer and coordinator
Academic Literacies

| Tel: 021 808 9172

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