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Unisa Muckleneuk campus at sunrise
|University of the Cape of Good Hope|
|Type||Public open distance learning|
|Established||26 June 1873|
|Principal & Vice-Chancellor||Prof. Mandla Makhanya|
|Students||350 551 (2017)|
|Location||Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa|
The University of South Africa (UNISA), and colloquially Unisa, is the largest university system in both South Africa and Africa by enrollment. It attracts a third of all higher education students in South Africa. Through various colleges and affiliates, UNISA has over 300,000 students, including international students from 130 countries worldwide, making it one of the world's mega universities and only such university in Africa.
UNISA is a dedicated open distance education institution. Distance learning (ODL) entails a student-centred approach that gives students flexibility and choice over what, when, where, and how they learn, and provides them with extensive student support.
As a comprehensive university, Unisa offers both vocational and academic programmes, many of which have received international accreditation, as well as an extensive geographical footprint, giving their students recognition and employability in many countries the world over.
Founded in 1873 as the University of the Cape of Good Hope, the University of South Africa (or Unisa as it is commonly known) spent most of its early history as an examining agency for Oxford and Cambridge universities and as an incubator from which most other universities in South Africa are descended. In 1946, it was given a new role as a distance education university and today it offers certificate, diploma and degree courses up to doctoral level.
In January 2004, Unisa merged with Technikon Southern Africa (formerly known as Technikon SA) and incorporated the distance education component of Vista University. The combined institution retained the name University of South Africa. It is now organised by college and by school; see below.
Unisa's Muckleneuk Campus is located in Pretoria and is a major landmark of the capital city. It was in 1972 that Unisa moved into its new home on Muckleneuk Ridge having vacated the old quarters in central Pretoria. The complex of buildings was designed by Bryan Sandrock Architects in the 1960s and expresses an international style characterised by monumental proportions and engineering feats like the cantilevered structures. The most striking feature is the long projection from the brow of the hill, supported by a giant steel girder resting on a massive column.
Also in Pretoria is the Sunnyside campus, the main area of student activity. The Florida campus in Johannesburg is Unisa's science campus. The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and some departments of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology is housed here. The science campus contains 12 buildings, a library, two auditoriums and a large study area. It also includes a horticultural centre and a multipurpose research and training facility designed to meet the education and research needs of students in a range of programmes including agriculture, ornamental horticulture and nature conservation.
The university has seven regional centres in South Africa, servicing students in all nine provinces. These are:
According to data extracted from the final audited Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) submissions to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Unisa had 355,240 students enrolled in 2013 from South Africa, Africa, and other international states. The largest portion of these students are South African, being 91.4% (324,607) of the sum of the student enrollments. The College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS) is the largest of the eight colleges, with 26.7% (94,972) of the total student enrollments.
According to the same HEMIS submission, Unisa had 5,575 staff members in 2013. The staff complement consisted of 3,261 females (55.7%) and 2,593 (44.3%) males. 2011 figures from the Department of Institutional Statistics and Analysis (DISA) at the university show that the majority of the staff employed are non-professional administrative staff, being 56.8% (3,164). The number of institutional/research professionals are 33.2% (1,846) of the sum of the staff employed.
As an Open Distance Learning (ODL) institution, and one of the world's mega universities, Unisa presents academic offerings associated with both technological and traditional universities. These include, but are not limited to, a combination of career-orientated courses usually associated with a university of technology, and formative academic programmes typically linked to a traditional university.
In addition to the eight colleges and SBL, Unisa has numerous bureaus, centres, institutes, museums and units supporting academic development and research.
In 2015, the University of South Africa was ranked the 6th best university in South Africa by the Times Higher Education. This makes the university the 6th best university in Africa, out of 30.
Unisa received a Royal Charter in 1877. It currently operates under the Statute of the University of South Africa issued in terms of the Higher Education Act (No. 101 of 1997), and is accredited by the South African Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education (CHE). Its qualifications (including those of the SBL) are registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Unisa is inter alia listed in the following publications: International Handbook of Universities published by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and officially verified by the International Association of Universities.
In other cases the publication of an institution’s name in specific authoritative publications forms the basis of accreditation. Students must however enquire from the specific foreign country/university whether Unisa’s qualifications are accredited/recognised.
Internationally, Unisa is listed in the Commonwealth Universities Handbook of 1999 and also in the International Handbook of Universities of 1998. It is actually listed as Member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU 2018).
On 12 January 2002, Unisa was granted full institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) of the United States. The accreditation lapsed in March 2007, and Unisa did not pursue renewal.
Students need a school-leaving qualification that would entitle them to enter a university or college in their own country.
Unisa has been promoting and promulgating culture in all its manifestations since its inception in 1873. Apart from the academic courses offered by Unisa's College of Humanities, practical language, art and music skills have been actively pursued through the setting of curricula and the implementation of special courses and examinations.
The Unisa Foundation was established in 1966 and now has approximately 280 active donors, many of them individual alumni with the desire to give back to the communities, South African and international, with a sense of social responsibility. Equally vital is the role played by the Board of Trustees, whose members not only oversee the affairs of the Unisa Foundation but who also lend the weight of their professional and personal reputations in a drive to reach potential donors, without financial reward to themselves.
Based at Unisa's main campus in Muckleneuck, Pretoria, the Foundation has Fundraising and Development Divisions in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. These divisions support the smooth running of projects being undertaken in their regions while raising additional funding for local community projects.
Unisa Press is the largest university press in South Africa, with the biggest publication list.
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