Stellenbosch University. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Stellenbosch University. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Stellenbosch University has received a major financial injection of R195m which it will use to fund "deserving" students in the electronic and electrical engineering disciplines.

The endowment, which is one of the largest individual donations ever made to the university, came in the form of a bequest by the late engineer, Dirk Ackermann.

The donation dwarfs a R100m endowment made to the University of the Witwatersrand by an anonymous donor in 2014.

Many universities in the country are under extreme financial pressure as a result of rising demand for tertiary education, which has not been matched by a sufficient increase in funding from the government. The no fee increase policy announced in 2015 also left many institutions in financial dire straits. The situation has forced universities to look at other ways of generating income.

Total donations to Stellenbosch University in 2016 were up 53% from the previous year and also exceeded donations received in 2014. At the beginning of 2017, the university received R1.1m in philanthropic donations, specifically earmarked for poor students.

On Thursday, Stellenbosch University vice-chancellor Wim de Villiers described the donation by Ackermann as "an investment in the future of a new generation of Maties". "It is definitely one of the most significant donations the university has ever received from one individual to date. We are very grateful and most appreciative of this bequest from Mr Ackermann."

De Villiers said the assumption that all students at Stellenbosch University are from affluent backgrounds is incorrect. "Substantially more than a third of our most recent graduates received some form of financial assistance during their studies … It is fascinating to see how this has changed over time. In 2000, 28% of Maties received some form of financial assistance. By 2014, this was up to 38%, and last year, 41% were from the so-called missing middle, that is, from households with a combined income of R600,000 or less per annum."

Ackermann, who passed away some years ago, bequeathed R8.4m to the university in the form of a share portfolio in 2006.

"The value of these shares has, in the meantime, grown to R194.6m. Subject to the conditions of the bequest from Mr Ackermann, this gift recently came to vest at full value at the university," said Hugo Steyn, from Stellenbosch University’s development and alumni relations division.

As stated in Ackermann’s will, the university will use the donation to establish the DW Ackermann Bursary Fund to benefit deserving students in the electronic and electrical engineering disciplines, invest the capital accordingly, and use the annual income for bursaries, which are to be awarded in terms of the criteria set out in his will.

"The fund will be managed as an endowment fund and will be sustainably used to benefit many students in the future," said Steyn. "The funds will be available soon and, after consultation with the faculty, we should be able to award bursaries from 2018."

Please sign in or register to comment.