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New universities have started academic year

The University of Mpumalanga (UMP) and the Northern Cape university have started the academic year.

According to the university’s chairman and head of academic affairs of UMP, Professor Ramaranka Mogotlane, the institution has already admitted 160 students.

“Registration took place on February 14 and this week we have started with orientation until the official academic opening of the university on Wednesday,” said Mogotlane on Monday.

At the end of October last year, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Minister Blade Nzimande said the lectures would take place at the Siyabuswa College of Education in Siyabuswa and Lowveld Agricultural College in Mbombela.

At the time Nzimande cautioned that universities should not be confused with tall buildings, but the cultural and economic life they bring to the community.

“We therefore expect no Ivory Towers here but rather an institution accessible to all, particularly the rural communities of Mpumalanga, where some of this university’s research will be done. It is from these communities as well as from across the country that it will draw its students. Therefore, there should be engagement at all levels of the institution," the Minister said.

Minister Nzimande explained that UMP will only offer more courses incrementally.

"The initial focus of the new university will be on university of technology type career-focused programmes already offered in the province with a further broadening of niche areas, and on teacher education with emphasis on Foundation Phase (teachers).

"There will be an incremental introduction of other more general formative type programmes with specialisation areas in health, engineering and agriculture. A fully fledged higher education institution will be established over time and this will be done in phases," said Nzimande.

Mogotlane said the 160 students have enrolled for three programmes, namely B Agric, Bachelor of Education: Foundation Phase and a National Diploma in Hospitality.

He said the programmes are under the patronage of the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria.

“We are working with the universities of Pretoria and Johannesburg for quality oversight, assessment and continuous improvement,” said Mogotlane.

The chairman added that the university would not benefit the students only, but also staff members who don’t have adequate qualifications.

“A staff improvement and development programme will be introduced,” Mogotlane said

The new Sol Plaatjie University in the Northern Cape has 105 students on its books, instead of the anticipated 120.

The institution was launched in Kimberley last year by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande.

It is the second new university in South Africa.

Currently, the university provides for a bachelor of education, a diploma in information technology and one in retail management.

Once completed, the university is expected to enrol about 5 000 students.

At the moment, lectures are being delivered at the National Institute for Higher Education in Kimberley.

According to the university’s chairman and head of academic affairs, Professor Ramaranka Mogotlane, the institution has already admitted 160 students.

Lectures will take place at the Siyabuswa College of Education in Siyabuswa and Lowveld Agricultural College in Mbombela.

The establishment of the new universities will also go some way towards contributing to the National Development Plan goal of achieving an increase in higher education enrolments by 2030

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