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Rhodes looks to up student numbers

Date Released: Mon, 15 April 2013 07:09 +0200

Rhodes University intends growing its student body to 8 748 by 2019 – a project which means more infrastructure, more staff, a great deal of money and careful planning.

Unveiling aspects of the university's institutional development plans for the next decade, vice-chancellor Dr Saleem Badat said the university would grow its student body by about 1 200 over the next six years, with an emphasis on becoming a more postgraduate university. It projects by 2019 its undergraduates will decrease from 70% to 68% while the postgraduates will grow to 32%.

"We believe becoming a more postgraduate university is the best way to serve our country and the continent," said Badat. The university already has one of the best research outputs per capita staff member, has one of the highest percentage of staff with PhDs and has excellent postgraduate graduation rates and the best rates at the PhD level when compared to other

Badat said the university was also determined to be more accessible to the poor and rural and this would require access to more financial aid.

He said the university had already garnered millions of rands from alumni, business and other funders as well as government for new academic and research programmes and much-needed infrastructure to grow the university. But more will be required if these ambitious targets are to be met.

Badat said the university would spend some R200million over the next 30 months on new buildings.

This included over R100-million on a new life sciences building, R22-million on health sciences, R36.8-million on student accommodation, and R31million on a school of languages building. The Department of Higher Education will provide R169million of this funding but the remaining R28.7million would have to come from other sources.

"And this excludes the maintenance challenge we face at this university which is 109 years old," said Badat. He said a major challenge would be negotiating the expansion with the Makana Municipality which is battling to provide a growing city with water, electricity and adequate sewage disposal.

Badat revealed Rhodes had almost been forced to close before the Easter break due to a prolonged water outage. It had cost the university an estimated R115 000 a day to bus water in for sanitation and other purposes and to buy bottled water for its students to drink. The municipality indicated due to its inadequate service infrastructure it would be slow to okay big building plans.

But Badat warned the municipality would have much to explain to the community if it hindered the growth of the university, which in turn promised more jobs and income. Rhodes is already the city's largest employer and is responsible for 60% of the town's GDP. "The future of this town is inextricably tied to the university."

Written by: Adrienne Carlisle

  • This article was published on Daily Dispatch.