This article seeks to reinforce the urgency for a multilingual academy in South Africa.
It draws on recent quantitative data to unpack the dramatic decline of language enrolments and
graduates of the 11 official languages. We explore the racial patterns in enrolments in the 11 official
languages, given the scarcity of recent research articles that offer a quantitative comparison of the
patterns of enrolment in this regard. We show that that while post-apartheid South Africa has seen
a continuous rise in the popularity of English and Afrikaans, this has happened at the expense of
all other official languages. We are mindful that the language policy in South Africa has political
currency, which is not echoed in practical implementation. We suggest that while universities cannot
ignore the politics of policy, it is the politics of practice in the form of what students choose to study
that plays out in higher education institutions across the country. Our purpose therefore is to offer
some insight into such practice. We argue that universities, in asserting their ‘public good’ mandate,
should not be guilty of aiding and abetting the decline in indigenous languages by prioritising an
efficiency mindset instead of a social justice one.