Professor Jan Casper “Cas” Gerhardus Janse van Vuuren joined Unisa in 1964 and occupied various posts in the 25 years before he took the reins as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 1989.


During Van Vuuren’s tenure as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Unisa embodied the contradictions of the dying apartheid state. Although it attracted learners of all colours, Unisa was condemned by an international commission for its inadequate academic support to black South Africans. Van Vuuren embodied similar contradictions; he was described as “weak”, but his administration was seen as stiflingly authoritarian. He insisted that although he was a stalwart of the National Party and Broederbond, they never influenced the political direction of Unisa. Yet, many noted the revival of Unisa’s reputation as an apartheid institution under Van Vuuren.  Van Vuuren openly conceded that he “was not the man” to preside over any democratic transition at Unisa. Van Vuuren grew up on a farm near Nylstroom (now Modimolle) in Limpopo. He earned a series of degrees, culminating in a Masters in German and a Doctorate in the Philosophy of Pedagogy. One of his majors was Sotho, which he would later use to address protesting students.