Change the world


Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is a decade old! The university opened on 1 January 2005, the result of the merging of the PE Technikon the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) and the Port Elizabeth campus of Vista University (Vista PE). This union of three very different institutions came about as a result of government’s countrywide restructuring of higher education – intended to deliver a more equitable and efficient system to meet the needs of South Africa in the 21st century.

NMMU brings together the best traditions of technikon and university education, and draws on more than a century of quality higher education, in a new kind of university that offers a wide range of academic, professional and technological programmes at varying entrance and exit levels.

NMMU has approximately 27 000 students and approximately 2 500 staff members, based on six campuses in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and George. The sites are the North Campus (former PE Technikon), South Campus (former UPE), Second Avenue Campus (former PE Technikon College Campus) Missionvale Campus (former Vista), Bird Street Campus and the George Campus at Saasveld.

State-of-the-art buildings are set for completion this year and will cap a decade of unprecedented infrastructure growth at NMMU. A R57-m Life and Physical Sciences building on South Campus and a R56-m Foundation Phase building on Missionvale Campus form part of R1.1 billion spent by the Department of Higher Education and NMMU since in 2009 in support of its teaching, learning and research.

The new buildings, along with other major projects since 2009, all form part of the university’s award-winning urban design framework – a framework that offers a philosophical approach to university planning and design.

“We believe the latest infrastructure outlined in the urban design framework will set NMMU apart in terms of a space utilization perspective,” says NMMU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa, adding that many of its newest buildings would soon be officially opened as part of the university’s 10-year celebrations.

In 2010, after the receiving the first round of DHET funding, NMMU built a new library at Missionvale Campus, upgraded and expanded laboratories on the same campus, and introduced lifts and ramps for greater accessibility.

During the same funding period, NMMU built a new link road between its North and South campuses, built new lecture halls to the value of R45m, renovated its Architecture Department, converted its Embizweni building exam hall and upgraded ventilation and lighting in its main library and other buildings. A massive concrete rehabilitation also took place on its South Campus.

On the adjacent North Campus, several buildings were expanded and a 200-seat lecture hall was completed, while on the neighbouring Second Avenue Campus, the library was extended and the old gym was converted to the new home of the university’s archives.

On George Campus, one of NMMU’s six campuses, R26m was invested in a library, new lecture halls and computer labs. A new student recreational facility was established and a much-needed upgrade of infrastructure services was completed.

The next three-year cycle of funding saw NMMU build a R34-m High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy Centre - the most sophisticated building of its kind in the Southern hemisphere, housing a suite of powerful microscopes; renovate its pharmacy laboratories, build an iconic engineering block, a R116-m Business School, several new residences in the metro and on George Campus and complete new human movement science centre, complete with an indoor sprint track for research and a high performance centre.

The new Science block and Foundation Phase building for teachers are included in the latest three-year cycle of funding from both the Institutional Operating Plan and the Infrastructure and Efficiency Fund and are set for completion in December.

But for now we’re ten. We’ve survived the knocks, bumps and bruises of childhood. We’ve scraped our knees a few times and even suffered a bloody nose for a serious lapse in behaviour. However, for the most part, we’ve relished our childhood and learnt to handle ourselves without too much help.

We’ve won a few prizes along the way, established some life-long friendships, built some pretty imposing sandcastles (have you seen all our new buildings?) and, for the most part, we’re appreciative of what we’ve received.

We’re pretty independent by now; we can stand on our own two feet and hold our head high.