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Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to rebrand itself

The Eastern Cape-based university was named after former president Nelson Mandela, although he never attended it.

NMMU’s spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said the institution wanted to position itself as an international university and dropping the word "Metropolitan" would allow it to rebrand itself beyond the geographical metropolis of Port Elizabeth.

The new name was gazetted by Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande in 2016, following an earlier request to have the institution’s name changed to Nelson Mandela University before the merger of the University of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth Technikon and the city’s Vista University campus to form NMMU in 2005.

The renaming process was once again invigorated by the #FeesMustFall movements calls for transformation and decolonisation of curriculum and name changes to important buildings and institutions. One example is Wits’ Senate House building, which was renamed the Solomon Mahlangu House.

The change will also be accompanied by a change in the university logos and colours.

The cost of the launch event, which takes place next Thursday, July 20, is R750,000, while all other costs involved, such as new signage, for example, would be absorbed by normal annual operational budgets.

On Monday outgoing NMMU vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz said the university was confident that the long-term benefits of being the only university in the world to carry former President Mandela’s name "will far outweigh any initial investment for the launch".

CEO of Fort advertising agency Shukri Toefy said the renaming was a good move because the institution would maintain the brand equity of probably one of the most recognisable names in the world — Nelson Mandela.

"NMMU’s rebranding/renaming it puts them on that level to compete with other universities, they have come a long way in putting themselves on the same playing field with the top institutions in SA," Toefy said.

Although ranked as one of the top public universities in SA, the institution has struggled to climb up the international university rankings. The Brics university ranking placed NMMU between 151 and 200 out of 250 top universities in the five Brics countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Mbabela said the new name would help it in its transformation agenda, affording it an opportunity to rethink the kind of university it can and should become in line with Nelson Mandela’s legacy. She said it presented an opportunity to launch the new name at a time when there was tangible progress in addressing the concerns raised by the #FeesMustFall movement.

Meanwhile, the university has also secured government permission to establish the country’s 10th medical school and will be launching SA’s only dedicated Ocean Sciences Campus in September.

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