SA technikons to be repackaged

October 31, 2003

South Africa's technikons (polytechnics) are to be renamed universities of technology in a repackaging exercise that has also established identities for new institutions created by a dozen mergers and incorporations.

Education minister Kader Asmal said last week: "The name technikon is thrown into the rubbish bin of undistinguished apartheid measures."

He stressed that universities of technology should remain distinct from traditional ones and that renaming "should not lead to undesirable academic drift".

Planning and funding levers should be used to ensure differentiation and diversity in higher education, the minister added.

Professor Asmal said that geographic names had been selected over those of people, because there was less scope for argument and universities grew out of their environments.

Proposals for radically restructuring higher education were approved by Cabinet a year ago, and arose out of the need to rationalise apartheid's duplicative and inefficient race-based system in line with new national priorities.

This started a flurry of mergers and incorporations that will slash the 36 public institutions by a third. From January 1 2004 there will be four new institutions:

* North West University (formerly Potchefstroom and North West universities)

* Tshwane University of Technology (currently Pretoria, Northern Gauteng and North West technikons), chaired by Jairam Reddy, a former vice-chancellor

* University of South Africa (Unisa) will retain its name in its merger with Technikon SA

* Natal and Durban-Westville universities will also merge but a new name will only be chosen once independent assessor Bongani Khumalo, has finished an investigation into governance and management problems at Durban-Westville.

The campuses of the open Vista University are being incorporated into other institutions from January 1 2004. Stellenbosch University's dental faculty will go to the University of the Western Cape, and Rhodes will lose its East London campus to Fort Hare.

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