Progress was made recently on a plan for a university to be built in the City of Ekurhuleni when its metropolitan municipality hosted the university symposium allowing stakeholders from government, business and youth to exchange their ideas on the process and also resolve on a way forward.
The event which was held late in September this year was addressed by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and training Buti Manamela, university Vice Chancellors, as well as youth and business leaders.
Speaking to Inside Education, an official at the Ekurhuleni metro Zuko Godlimpi said plans for a university were still on the cards for the city.
“The City of Ekurhuleni has been working on the process towards the building of a university. But the building of universities is of course a competency of the national department of higher education and training and the city of Ekurhuleni has been building a case to justify why the region or City needs a university,” said Godlimpi.
Godlimpi said what informed their decision, is that Ekurhuleni historically has always been South Africa’s manufacturing hub which has experienced a decline in industrial assets since 1994.
“Our economic development plan includes revitalising manufacturing, but that requires, the building of a skills set that provides the labour and human capital required for that development,” said Godlimpi.
“So, that is why we have decided to push forward with our plans to build the City of Ekurhuleni a university that will benefit its people and its economy.”
Godlimpi said the university will also make it easier for students who would like to further their education to do so within the city, close to home.
“The population that of Ekurhuleni is quite high, but Ekurhuleni has a low tertiary education level among its citizens. This is partly because the people of Ekurhuleni have to compete for spaces in universities that are outside the region, so because of that competition, there are low numbers of people from the city that would end up being accepted in those universities,” said Godlimpi.
Speaking at the symposium, Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina said that although it was still in the early planning phases, the university would feed the economy and will help citizens adapt to “the fourth industrial revolution”, which will see traditional industrial jobs disintegrate.
He also said practical steps had been taken to ensure that the project was followed through since the initial pronouncement at the State of the City Address in March.
When asked about how long the process would take, Godlimpi said it could take up to five years until they’re given the go-ahead to start building.
“What has to happen is that it has to be presented to the department and get an approval from the department,” said Godlimpi.
“A university by legislation is an act of parliament, and that means it is parliament that has to accept the university as an act of parliament.”
“So, what the city has already done, was to do a situational analysis and it also developed a business case for the university and it has also had conversations with private investors on the possibility of a public private partnership in infrastructure development for the university.”
“So, it could take anything from two to five years to get an acceptance.”
Godlimpi also said an Advisory Committee would be established comprising of a range of different stakeholders to guide the development of the university in the city.
“The city is putting together an advisory panel made up of different experts, people who have expertise in finance, in higher education administration, in academia and so on and it is that advisory panel that would actually supervise the concept of the financial modelling that will give us an indication of how far this thing can go,” said Godlimpi.
“When that is finalised, we can then get on with the work of financial models but also the model that the university will take.”
In conclusion, the city has strongly urged young people to participate in this process, in order to ensure that they fully own the process and that they become part of history in the making.
“When the executive mayor came into office, he came into office carrying the sentiment of the youth of Ekurhuleni, that whatever happens the city needs to work towards building a local university because of the various problems that they say they are facing when applying to universities elsewhere,” said Godlimpi.
“So, the whole concept is inspired by the youth of Ekurhuleni which is why it is important that they play their part in the process and help determine the nature of the academic programs it will offer among other things.”
“Essentially a university, although it’s a public good, its mainly a public good that it meant for young people,” concluded Godlimpi.
For more information on the development of the university in the City of Ekurhuleni, visit the website.