Mpumalanga university ‘on track’ for 2014 launch

Mpumalanga’s new university will definitely start operating next year and will be offering programmes in agriculture and foundation-phase teacher education, Premier David Mabuza has said.

The agriculture courses will be offered at the University of Mpumalanga’s main campus in Nelspruit while the Siyabuswa campus will specialise in education. The main campus will be located at the Lowveld Agricultural College premises.

Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape will, for the first time in history, have their own universities, which are also the first to be built by the democratically elected government after 1994.

The last time a university was built in the country was 46 years ago. It was the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) – renamed University of Johannesburg following a merger with Technikon Witswatersrand and Vista University in 2005.

The Northern Cape institution has been named Sol Plaatje University and its eventual maximum intake will be 5 000 students.

Premier David Mabuza told the legislature, while giving a progress report, that nominations for people to serve on the interim council had been received and the following people were appointed: Dr Madoda Mabunda (chairperson), Helen Thrush, Professor Chris de Beer, Professor Connie Mokadi and Fidel Mlombo.

Mabuza said that Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande made a presentation to the province in March and confirmed that academic programmes would start with effect from 2014.

The main campus would also offer degree programmes in addition to the diploma and certificate programmes offered by the college.

The Siyabuswa campus has partnered with the University of Johannesburg to assist with the teaching programme.

“Additional programmes will be introduced in 2015. The university is planned to grow and develop over time into an institution that will cater for 15 000 full-time equivalent students within 10 years, with the initial 2014 start-up intake being small and accommodated in existing buildings,” said Mabuza.

“This will be a comprehensive university offering both traditional and university of technology-type programmes,” Mabuza said.

He said that university task teams at both political and administrative levels had been established. They comprise Mbombela local municipality, the departments of public works, cooperative governance and higher education and training.

“These teams will ensure that all hindrances towards the establishment of the university are promptly addressed,” Mabuza said.

When fully established, Mpumalanga’s university will offer the following courses:

» Agriculture with areas of specialisation in natural-resource management, nature conservation, plant and animal sciences, forestry and wood sciences and technology. as well as wild life management;

» Engineering specialising in industrial and manufacturing, agricultural, chemical and computer systems engineering;

» Health sciences and related clinical sciences with a strong linkage to the nursing college and other health professions;

» Computer science focusing on programming, information science and data processing and business system analysis;

» Management, economics and finance fields with areas of specialisation in logistics management, local government; and

» Teacher education with an initial focus on foundation-phase teaching.

The university will also develop at least two postgraduate centres of excellence, with consideration being given to:

» Applied science – agricultural sciences, specifically linked to subtropical fruit, biodiversity and ecosystem management; and

» Human development, family studies and rural and sustainable development.

The Sol Plaatje University will offer:

» Information technology and computer sciences with possible areas of specialisation on systems administration, networking and LAN/WAN or web management;

» Engineering and applied sciences with a possible focus on manufacturing, diamond technology, renewable or alternative energy;

» Agriculture with a focus on agroprocessing, agricultural business technology and agriculture mechanisation and food science and technology;

» Management studies with a possible focus on business management, hospitality management and tourism management;

» Health sciences with an initial focus on nursing; and

» Humanities with areas of specialisation in teacher education, indigenous languages, heritage studies and art.

This university will develop at least two postgraduate centres of excellence, with consideration being given to:

» Physical sciences – astronomy; and

» Applied sciences – renewable energy, low carbon energy, hydrology, water-resource management and climate variability.

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