SA institutions face cull

February 15, 2002

South Africa's universities and technikons should be slashed from 36 to 21 according to a rationalisation proposed by the government to dismantle apartheid-derived racial divides.

A national working group into mergers is certain to be contested, although initial reactions have been positive. Education minister Kader Asmal warned: "It will be very difficult and it might be controversial."

Professor Asmal set up the group to advise the government on the restructuring of a cash-starved system that, under apartheid, created duplicate institutions to keep racial groups apart.

The group, headed by businessman Saki Macozoma, said its proposals would "transform the apartheid edifice" of higher education.

But some historically black institutions will seize on what they see as racial bias. Many of these institutions will be merged or closed.

Six historically white universities will remain intact - Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Wi****ersrand, Rand Afrikaans University, Pretoria and Free State. But they have been warned to give priority to access, equity and "serious regional collaboration".

The formerly black Transkei and Vista universities will be discontinued, Zululand "downgraded" and several others merged.

Teacher training, agriculture and nursing colleges will be integrated into higher education, and there will be closer regulation of distance learning.

In the Eastern Cape, Fort Hare - alma mater for many African leaders - will merge with Rhodes and Transkei's medical school. Fort Hare will keep only academic programmes "in which it is particularly strong". Port Elizabeth's university and technikon will merge into a "comprehensive" institution. Border and Eastern Cape technikons will join.

A major merger will be Natal and Durban-Westville to create a university of 30,000 students. Zululand will become "comprehensive" and the merged Natal and ML Sultan technikons must join with Mangosuthu Technikon.

The universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch will be retained but must "establish a single teaching platform" in some disciplines, as will Cape Technikon. The formerly black University of the Western Cape will join Peninsula Technikon.

In Gauteng, Wi****ersrand and Vaal Triangle technikons will remain but Northern Gauteng, Pretoria and North-West will merge.

Free State's university and technikon also avoid mergers, but the universities of the North, Venda and the Medical University of South Africa will join to be more comprehensive, as will the universities of Potchefstroom and North-West.

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