Stellenbosch University – KU Leuven Student Think Tank

Are you interested in taking part in the Stellenbosch University / KU Leuven Think Tank for top academic achievers? Apply now to join 29 other students to explore possibilities around the theme: Vox Populi.


Vox Populi


Izwi labantu – Stem van het volk – Vox Populi – Die stem van die mense


Populism is on the rise globally. On both the left and the right, people are demanding more radical intervention. On the left, the ‘enemy of the people’ are the large and increasing differences in wealth inequality. The proposed solution, according to adherents of this ideology, is for governments to implement larger redistributive policies. On the right, the ‘enemy of the people’ are immigrants and ‘outsiders’. Here, nativist, xenophobic and other exclusionary policies are proposed.

Many factors are to blame for the rise in populism, but globalisation and technological innovation are the two most likely culprits. These two trends are unlikely to slow down soon, suggesting that populist rhetoric and policies will only increase.

This will have profound implications in almost all aspects of life. What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for democracy when voters not always act in their own self-interest? Consider, for example, how Americans have voted for a Republican government that want to remove the health care many have come to depend on. What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for science when people disbelieve the majority of scientists warning about climate change? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for law, when artificial intelligence can make far more equitable judgements? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for technology, when robots are replacing millions of jobs? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for consumer choice, when an algorithm can now decide what we want before we even know we want it?

Whose voice should we listen to in future?


SU International, in conjunction with the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert (FVZS) Institute, is proud to present the Think Tank for 2018. We await applications from top final year and postgraduate students representative of a variety of faculties from Stellenbosch University to engage around this theme. Please note that, in order to qualify, you need to enroll at Stellenbosch University in 2018.

All expenses for the programme will be covered by the two institutions. The programme will however ask of you for extra time (2 hours per week) to invest in the project and will include an exchange visit to KU Leuven (Belgium) during April 2018. See further terms & conditions below.


Please send the following to before or on 12 Nov 2017

  • Your CV (max 2 pages)
  • A copy of your academic record
  • A personal motivation. Please make specific mention on how you understand the theme (max 2 pages).


The Think Tank is a unique initiative for the two institutions and particularly focuses on student engagement and co-curricular learning.

The programme will be an annual initiative that runs from January to December with selection for the next year taking place in October/November. The programme will include 15 students of each institution and will be mentored by the Resident Representative and other staff members (academic and non-academic).

The programme will annually pick a theme that is topical and innovative for discussion from multiple perspectives that will be facilitated simultaneously through online mechanisms. Group meetings will take place bi-weekly exploring the theme selected, with guest speakers addressing the group from time to time. During April a short one week visit to Belgium will be undertaken to explore the theme with the Leuven colleagues. The conversations will continue via skype and other online platforms throughout the year. The programme will culminate in a face-to-face workshop at the end of the year. In 2018 the workshop will be in Stellenbosch during November.

The students (15 each) will be selected from the Top 10% from Honnours and Masters (at Stellenbosch) and Masters students (KU Leuven). This may also include recently graduated Bachelors students. The selection committee will also take into consideration:

  • Diversity – society, academic disciplines
  • Interest in societal issues and desire to make impact on society


·       Students that are already pursuing a career and working full time will not be eligible to apply

·       Students have to be full time students, and be expected to attend sessions on the Stellenbosch Campus bi-weekly.

·       Students would need to make a full year commitment from Feb – Nov 2018

·       Students that do not partake until the completion of the programme and withdraw from the programme will be responsible to pay back the travel bursary component that was received for the visit to Belgium. This will be loaded onto the student account automatically.



  • If you have any queries, please email Werner de Wit at

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