Progress made on SA's new universities

Pretoria - Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande says he is satisfied with the progress being made towards building the University of Mpumalanga and Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape.

"I am satisfied with the planning and preparations geared towards the start of construction of new buildings, in keeping with the commitment made by the President in his State of the Nation Address in June," said Minister Nzimande on Friday.

He said the construction of the new universities was part of expanding the tertiary system in South Africa to accommodate greater numbers of qualifying school leavers.

Over the past 20 years, university enrolment has almost doubled from 495 356 in 1994 to 953 373 in 2012. Enrolments are expected to grow to approximately 1.1 million in 2019 and 1.6 million students by 2030, as envisaged in the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training.

"It is critical that this expansion be supported by quality infrastructure," said Minister Nzimande.

In the last quarter of 2013, a number of buildings were partially upgraded to enable a modest enrolment at both universities in the 2014 academic year. A total construction value of R28.8 million was recorded and 457 jobs were created.

Work is continuing at both universities on the renovation and upgrading of existing facilities to accommodate planned enrolment for the 2015 academic year.

At the University of Mpumalanga (UMP), the on-going renovation work includes the provision of two large auditoria, expansion and reconfiguration of a library, IT resource centre, computer lab and data centre among others.

At Sol Plaatje University (SPU), this includes the provision of 28 academic offices, six laboratories, five classrooms, a student admission centre, industrial kitchen and canteen.

It further includes the conversion of a nine-storey block of flats and a second two-storey building to accommodate 180 students in residence together with two wardens' flats and five flats for staff. This work commenced in July and to date, 89 jobs have been created.

The announcement that South Africa will build the new universities was made in 2012.