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Another giant leap for city’s university


The university’s layout was designed to integrate into the very fabric of Kimberley

NEW FACES: First-year students and their families during a welcoming ceremony at Sol Plaatje University. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE SOL Plaatje University (SPU) on the weekend welcomed more than 600 first-entering students and their families – its biggest group ever of new students.

More than 2 000 students are expected to be registered at the university for the 2019 academic year.

In 2014, when the university opened its doors for the first time, SPU had 132 registered students. This number increased to 940 in 2017 and 1 560 in 2018. This year, more than 2 000 students are expected to be registered to study at the university, with between 7 500 and 8 000 students expected to be enrolled by 2025.

During a press conference on the weekend, Professor Patrick FitzGerald, SPU director of special projects, noted that the rapid growth and expansion of the university was gradually having a positive impact on the growth of Kimberley.

“With the increase of students, there also comes an increase of academic and administrative staff, which will have an impact not only on the intellectual but also the economic and social growth of the city,” FitzGerald said.

He added that the university’s layout was designed to integrate into the very fabric of Kimberley.

According to SPU spokesperson, Kashini Maistry, 2019’s first-entering students come from all nine provinces in South Africa and are registered across the full bouquet of programmes offered by the university.

These include: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Data Science, Heritage Studies, ICT and Retail Business.

The University also registered its first cohort of postgraduate students for Honours in Data Science.

On Saturday, the deputy president of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Nomathamsanqa Qiza and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mary Jean Baxen, welcomed the new students and their families during at ceremony at the university’s main campus.

In her welcoming remarks, Baxen told the new students and their parents that SPU had high standards for which it made no apology.

“It does not settle for mediocrity or the lowest common denominator. The goal of the staff is to walk this academic journey with the students and create conducive and discursive spaces that will cultivate them into some of the finest young minds in South Africa,” Baxen said.

She added that the students were now members of an “elite group of higher education students”, saying that they had traversed and navigated a complex set of circumstances to find themselves at the institution but that they nevertheless had made it.

She reminded them of their peers who began the schooling journey with them, but many may not have completed matric and if they did, may not have obtained a pass that merited their access into a higher education institution. It is for this reason that she referred to them as elite.

She also reminded them that they should enjoy their time at SPU and take full advantage of what is on offer at the institution.

Qiza also welcomed the new students and their families. She encouraged the students to become the principal authors of the next chapter of their lives.

She left them with three main messages: firstly, to take responsibility for their learning by ensuring that they fulfil their academic commitments and to seek help when they need it, from friends, peers and to use the student support services available to them.

Her second message was for them to make the most of their time at SPU and; thirdly, to embrace the diversity that they will encounter at the university.

She advised that their journey would be daunting and exciting but also empowering.

In 2019, SPU registered its first cohort of postgraduate students in the following qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Data Science, Bachelor of Education (Honours) in Curriculum Studies, and Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Sociology.

Later this year SPU will register students in the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management. The university was given approval to register students in 10 new programmes, of which eight are postgraduate qualifications.

FitzGerald said that these new programmes would serve to completely change the university’s landscape as it would attract senior academics and thus enhance the intellectual capacity of the institution even further.