Rhodes University

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Rhodes University
Rhodes University logo-no background.png
Rhodes University coat of arms
Former names
Rhodes University College
Motto Vis, virtus, veritas
Motto in English
Strength, courage, truth
Established 31 May 1904
Type Public
Endowment R429.6 million[1] (US$59.853 million as of 2008)
Chancellor Lex Mpati
Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela
Academic staff
Students 7,005[2]
Undergraduates 5,372[2]
Postgraduates 1,633[2]
Location Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
33°18′49″S 26°31′11″E / 33.31361°S 26.51972°E / -33.31361; 26.51972Coordinates: 33°18′49″S 26°31′11″E / 33.31361°S 26.51972°E / -33.31361; 26.51972
Colours Purple     
Nickname Rhodian, Rhodent (informally)
Affiliations AAU, ACU, HESA, IAU
Website ru.ac.za
Rhodes University Logo

Rhodes University (RU or simply Rhodes) is a public research university located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is one of four universities in the province. Established in 1904, Rhodes University is the province's oldest university, and it is the fifth or sixth oldest South African university in continuous operation, being preceded by the University of the Free State (1904),[3] University of Witwatersrand (1896), Stellenbosch University (1866) and the University of Cape Town (1829).[verification needed] Rhodes was founded in 1904 as Rhodes University College, named after Cecil Rhodes, through a grant from the Rhodes Trust. It became a constituent college of the University of South Africa in 1918 before becoming an independent university in 1951.

The university has an enrolment of over 7,000 students, approximately 3,000 of whom live on campus in several residences located on campus while the remaining students (known as oppidans) take residence in digs (off-campus residences) or in their own homes in town.


View of High Street looking west from the corner of Hill Street towards the Drostdy Arch, the main entrance to the present-day Rhodes University campus. Circa 1898.
The Sir Herbert Baker clock tower at the heart of the Rhodes campus. The clock tower was designed by Herbert Baker in 1910 and constructed in subsequent years.

Although a proposal to found a university in Grahamstown had been made as early as 1902, financial problems caused by the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape prevented the proposal from being implemented. In 1904 Leander Jamson issued £50 000 preferred stock to the university from the Rhodes Trust. With this funding Rhodes University College was founded by an act of parliament on 31 May 1904.

University education in the Eastern Cape began in the college departments of four schools: St. Andrew's College; Gill College, Somerset East; Graaff-Reinet College; and the Grey Institute in Port Elizabeth. The four St Andrew's College professors, Arthur Matthews, George Cory, Stanley Kidd and G.F Dingemans became founding professors of Rhodes University College.

At the beginning of 1905, Rhodes moved from cramped quarters at St Andrew's to the Drostdy building, which it bought from the British Government. Rhodes became a constituent college of the new University of South Africa in 1918 and it continued to expand in size. When the future of the University of South Africa came under review in 1947, Rhodes opted to become an independent university.

Rhodes University was inaugurated on 10 March 1951. Sir Basil Schonland, son of Selmar Schonland, became the first Chancellor of his alma mater, and Dr Thomas Alty the first Vice-Chancellor. In terms of the Rhodes University Private Act, the University College of Fort Hare was affiliated to Rhodes University. This mutually beneficial arrangement continued until the apartheid government decided to disaffiliate Fort Hare from Rhodes. The Rhodes Senate and Council objected strongly to this, and to the Separate University Education Bill, which they condemned as interference with academic freedom. However, the two bills were passed, and Fort Hare's affiliation to Rhodes came to an end in 1959. Nevertheless, in 1962 an honorary doctorate was conferred on the State President C.R. Swart, who (as Minister of Justice after 1948) had been responsible for the repression of opposition political organisations. The award caused the resignation of the Chancellor, Sir Basil Schonland, although his reasons were not made public at the time.[4]

James Hyslop succeeded Alty in 1963. In 1971, Rhodes negotiated to purchase the closed Community of the Resurrection Training College buildings and grounds and a number of adjacent buildings, facilitating further expansion.

The old part of the Rhodes University campus – viewed across the Great Fields towards the Student Union building and the science buildings.
Kimberley Hall is currently one of nine halls on campus.
The new Eden Grove building at Rhodes University.


During 2008 work began on construction of a new library building at a cost of R85 million, one of the largest infrastructure projects undertaken by the university, and was completed in 2010.

Organization and administration[edit]

Faculties and Schools[edit]

Rhodes has six faculties, listed below:

The six faculties are further subdivided into 30 academic departments, of which 11 form part of the humanities faculty. The humanities faculty, being the largest in the university, consists of 40% of the student intake of undergraduate and postgraduate studies, enrolling 2669 students as of 2009.[5]

Law Clinic[edit]

Rhodes University operates a Law Clinic, which operates as a firm of attorneys providing training to law students and free legal services for indigent people.[6] The Law Clinic operates from two offices, one in Grahamstown and one in Queenstown. The Law Clinic came to national attention in July 2013 when it represented 15 members of Nelson Mandela's family in their litigation against Mandla Mandela (Nelson Mandela's grandson) concerning the location of family grave sites.[7][8]


Rhodes is a small, highly residential university. For most undergraduates, first and second years of study are done while living in campus residences.

Rhodes' academic program operates on a semester calendar, beginning in early-February to early-June, and the second semester beginning in late-July and ending late-November.

Undergraduate tuition for the first year of study in 2011 towards a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degree was R26,590 and R27,720, respectively, and the cost of board was between R35,700 and R37,600.[9]

Student body[edit]

Rhodes received 3603 applications for admission, admitting 1397 (38.7%) of applications.[9]

The table below shows the racial composition of the university for the year 2008.

Demographics of student body[10]
Undergraduate Postgraduate Eastern Cape Province SA Census
Black 56% 42% 87% 79.4%
Coloured 4% 3% 7.5% 8.8%
White 44% 50% 4.7% 9.2%
Indian 5% 5% 0.3% 2.6%
Other 0% 0% 1%> 1%>

SARChi Chairs[edit]

Rhodes holds ten of the national research chairs appointed under the South African Research Chairs Initiative. This accounts for approximately 7% of the total awarded nationally in South Africa, a significant proportion given the University's small size.[11]

Student life[edit]

Halls of Residence[edit]

  • Allan Webb Hall
  • Courtenay-Latimer Hall
  • Desmond Tutu
  • Drostdy Hall
  • Founders Hall
  • Hobson Hall
  • Jan Smuts Hall
  • Miriam Makeba Hall(Formerly Kimberley Hall East)
  • Kimberley Hall West
  • Lilian Ngoyi Hall
  • Nelson Mandela Hall
  • St Mary Hall


There are three student newspapers, Activate, The Oppidan Press and Cue which has been published daily during the National Arts Festival held in Grahamstown every year for several decades. Activate celebrated its 65th birthday in 2012, while The Oppidan Press was only first published in 2007 with its target readership being mainly Oppidans. The journal Philosophical Papers is edited in the department of philosophy.


In 2011 Webometrics ranked the university the 5th largest in South Africa and 700th in the world.[12]

Notable alumni and staff[edit]

In academia, Old Rhodian Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research in virology in 1951. Between 1903 and 1980 Rhodians were awarded at least 155 Rhodes Scholarships, representing 20% of the 728 scholarships awarded in Southern Africa during that period.[citation needed]

Notable alumni: general[edit]

Notable alumni: journalists, media celebrities in South Africa[edit]

One of the most well known departments on the Rhodes campus is the university's school of Journalism and Media Studies, through which many of South Africa's most notable media celebrities have passed. There are also an especially high number of radio celebrities who graduated at Rhodes – many of them having spent time with the university's campus radio station Rhodes Music Radio.

Some of the important media celebrities and industry figures from Rhodes include:

Notable staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Annual Reports and Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2008. Rhodes University. p. 31. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d Digest of Statistics Version 14: 2010. Rhodes University. 2010. pp. A1,G7. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.ufs.ac.za/content.aspx?id=11 Brief History – UFS was established 28 January 1904 Retrieved 28 April 2011
  4. ^ Badat, Saleem. "Dr". Vice Chancellor. Rhodes University. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  5. ^ http://www.ru.ac.za/facultyofhumanities
  6. ^ http://www.ru.ac.za/law/lawclinic/
  7. ^ http://mg.co.za/article/2013-07-24-00-rhodes-law-clinic-defends-decision-to-fund-indigent-mandelas
  8. ^ http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2013/07/19/mandela-burials-fight-blights-95th-birthday
  9. ^ a b "The lowdown on higher education". Times Live. 18 September 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Digest of Statistics, Version 13: 2009". Digest of Statistics. Rhodes University. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Rhodes celebrates new prestigious SARChI Chairs". Rhodes University. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Top Africa". Ranking Web of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  13. ^ Gregory de Mink (8 August 2012). "On air for 31 years and counting". Grocott's Mail. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  14. ^ http://www.allbookstores.com/author/Obie_Oberholzer.html

External links[edit]