Plans in the pipeline for university in Ekurhuleni

THE R21 Albertina Sisulu Corridor (in proximity to Riverfields and Serengeti Estates) and Green Reef (located in Boksburg, close to East Rand Mines Golf Course) have been identified as possible sites for a proposed university for the City of Ekurhuleni.

These are two of 10 initial sites that have been identified, with the others including Glengory (along the M32 and Glengory Road), OR Tambo North, Jan Smuts Ext 2 and surrounds, Aerotropolis (Aero City Centre), Rondebult (at Rondebult Bird Sanctuary), Tambo Springs (along the N3 Corridor, south of Vosloorus), Carnival Junction (along the R23 north of Dalview) and land located in and around Brakpan Civic Centre and Jan Smuts Dam.

This was revealed by Pieter Swanepoel, divisional head: specialist projects of Ekurhuleni Metro City Planning, when addressing the Captains of Industry Forum recently.

Swanepoel presented a feasibility study into the opening of a university within the metro.

Taking into consideration the amount of land needed for the university, and the proximity of hubs of population and economy, the R21 Corridor and Green Reef are the locations that will be reviewed further as the metro pushes for a local institution of higher learning to become a reality.

The feasibility study looked at factors such as what other institutes of higher learning are offering, the funding models of competitor universities and fields of study.

According to Swanepoel, the study has proved that the metro, with a population of 3 379 104, definitely needs a university, considering the shortage of skills.

“The metro identified a need for an institution of higher learning, based on the economic background of the city and the need to support this base, because it is the only metro without a university and there is a shortage of youthful skilled labour. It is also of concern the far distances so many have to travel to gain access to tertiary education facilities,” said Swanepoel.

He said the metro needed to create an institution that would enable skills development and enhance and support economic growth.

He revealed in the short term, the university would cost around R1.2-billion, and over the long term this estimate would balloon about five times.

The size of the land the metro will require is about 46 hectares for now, which will balloon to at least 180 hectares over the long term to cater for the expansion of facilities and services.

Swanepoel said the metro sat with smaller households than most other metros and also lower income per household, which caused a less effective economic contribution.

“Education in Ekurhuleni shows that four per cent have no schooling, 35 per cent have completed secondary schooling and only 15 per cent have a tertiary education. This therefore needs to be addressed.”

He said the metro was looking at the possibility of a comprehensive university, which is an institution of higher learning focused on teaching that combines elements of conventional and university of technology fields of study.

Swanepoel said, based on the studies, it is estimated that over the short-term phase (three to five years), 10 571 students can be enrolled and over the long-term phase (30 years), 45 687.

“The aim of the proposed Ekurhuleni Institute of Higher Learning should be to establish a comprehensive higher education institution that is funded by a collaboration of public and private entities.

“The core characteristic of a comprehensive HEI is that it provides a diverse set of academic programmes that not only creates horizontal accessibility (variety of study programmes), but also enables vertical access (numerous study programme entry points).

“It is the metro’s proposal for under graduate and post graduate programmes to be offered. Goals and objectives of a comprehensive HEI is increased access, in particular, to career-focused programmes with prospective students able to choose from a wider variety of programmes with different entry requirements.”

Swanepoel stressed plans to see the university come into fruition is in an early stage, with an education symposium planned for September.

Continuous engagements with various stakeholders, private and public, will begin to flesh out the funding model, ownership structure, the vision, the mission and fields of study,

Riaan Engelbrecht

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