The new university planned to be built in the province will accommodate about 15000 students, the Department of Higher Education has revealed.
Vuyelwa Qinga, from the office of the Minister of Higher Education, said: “It is likely to be a comprehensive university offering a mix of university of technology and traditional university programmes.”
Last week, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) raised concerns about the costs of building a new university. It said a cheaper option would be the upgrading of existing institutions of higher learning, which would be adequate.
However, Qinga said the new university would be an asset to the province. “A new institution with its own unique identity servicing the province and the country at large will be an asset into the future.
“This will be one of the first post-apartheid universities and will assist with the real expansion of university education in the post-school system.”
Nehawu was also unhappy with the new university being located at White River – something Qinga dismissed as mere misinformation. “It must be emphasised that the location of the new university has not yet been decided.”
Qinga said there were many advantages of establishing a new university in Mpumalanga.
White River lies north of Nelspruit not far from the Kruger National Park.
Nehawu media liaison officer Sizwe Pamla had complained that White River was “not a big town and is not situated close to either urban or rural residential areas, therefore limiting access to higher education to those that are economically privileged”.
“We believe that this decision will only deplete the limited financial resources in the province which could be better utilised to expedite service delivery to our communities.”
Defending the decision to build a new university, Lebona Mosia, from the office of the premier in Mpumalanga, said: “One of the campuses that will be used as part of the university is the existing FET college in KwaMhlanga.”
Qinga said the planning process would determine the cost of the institution. The location of the new university was expected to be decided by the middle of this year.
“Once the location of the seat of learning has been decided and the full campus plan has been developed, we will be able to give a more accurate estimation of how much the new university will cost,” Qinga said.