IMPRESSIVE STATS: Dean Wouter Jensen speaking to the parents on open day in the new auditorium Picture: LOUISE KNOWLES
NEW GUYS AND GIRLS: Stefanie Dunnington with father Bruce and mother Alex and Sihle Eyles (right) with his mother Ursula Eyles
POSITIVE MOVE: Alana Wheelan and her mother Sharon
UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Alex Tiltman registered to study hospitality with his younger brother, Dimitri (left) and parents Dave and Despina coming along to give him moral support
DEAN of students, Dr Wouter Hensens, welcomed new students and their families and gave a brief history and overview of the campus at Stenden South Africa’s open day on Saturday.
The Grand Hotel since 1890, it was acquired by alderman Louise Swanepoel and her partner John Hughes. In 2000, they travelled to Europe and spoke to Stenden University (formerly Christelijke Hogeschool Nederland) and convinced them to start
a campus in Port Alfred.
Stenden (which was then called the Educational Institute for Service Studies) opened in the year 2002 with eight students and went from strength to strength. Today there are 350 and 50-150 exchange students who do an 18 week specialization related to the local environment, eg wildlife, social entrepreneurship or wine studies.
“Port Alfred out-performs other Stenden campuses for staff satisfaction, student satisfaction, pass rate and employment,” said Hensens.
Key initial indicators are measured every four weeks when the student representative council (SRC) goes to classes to gets “tips and tops”, and departments make changes based on students’ recommendations.
There are 20-25 students per class compared to public universities which have between 30-50. All the other campus sites at Qatar, Thailand, Bali and the Netherlands, have the same international curriculum and all that students need is an air ticket to go and study at another campus site.
They teach problem-based learning from late 1960s which is based on real world demands like selling ideas, working together and solving problems.
Real-world learning occurs at the boutique hotel, MyPond, “the best 4 star hotel in the Eastern Cape”, said Hensens. A group of investors used to run it, but Stenden offered to run it with their own students.
Students can alternatively register in disaster management which involves working with municipalities and going on excursions. Hensens said Stenden is currently furnishing a disaster control centre with six screens and direct internet for simulations and real life use.
Both BCom degrees involve starting at the bottom with basic skills in first year, training and supervising 1st year students in second year, and choosing a department to specialize in third year. Disaster management is a four year degree, however.
In their final year students do a 21 week internship or an entire fourth year in disaster management. Some 80% of students get a job offer and with a career pass, do not need to write exams.
Half of the students are on bursaries. Most live on or around campus. There are no day students. Students are together 24 hours and make their own plans for entertainment and sports. Taking responsibility for much of it is the SRC, which meets with the dean every two weeks.
It is an alcohol-free campus since a Stenden student died of alcohol poisoning at his birthday party and the story appeared on Carte Blanche, said Hensen. There is a R1 200 fine and exchange students get sent home for alcohol on campus. Possession of drugs involves immediate suspension.
The best hotel schools including Lausanne, Laurache and Lyon, which is on a mountain in Switzerland, are all on remote sites where students can focus on a career, said Hensens.