National University of Lesotho

TERTIARY EDUCATION in Lesotho developed from the determination of the Roman Catholic Church in Southern Africa to establish an institution of higher learning for Africans. This determination led, in 1945, to the establishment of the Pius XII Catholic University College at Roma, a rural valley some 34 kilometres southeast of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. The college was at first housed in a primary school building at the Roma Mission, but soon moved to the present university site. From its foundation, Pius XII College was affiliated to the University of South Africa (UNISA), and from the mid-1950s, the fledgling university was offering courses leading to UNISA bachelors degrees in commerce and science, as well as a postgraduate diploma in education.

By the end of that decade, however, financial problems and a deteriorating relationship with UNISA led to dramatic change. Through an agreement between the High Commission Territories and the Catholic Church, a new independent institution, the University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland was established at the Roma site. By 1963, 180 students were enrolled; the first degrees were conferred early in 1967; and by 1970 student numbers had grown to over 400. Of these, 36 percent were from Lesotho, the balance coming from Botswana and Swaziland.

In 1975, however, a decision was taken to establish the National University of Lesotho (NUL), an unexpected development that excluded students from Botswana and Swaziland. This forced these countries to move towards alternative arrangements and ultimately to establish their
own national universities.

Over the years, new facilities and departments have been established at Roma, on the original historic site of the Pius XII College. Considerable assistance has been received from external sources, particularly from countries within the European Union. The Netherlands, for example, has been instrumental in establishing a powerful education faculty at NUL.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance 1

The National University of Lesotho (NUL) is a predominantly contact university with the majority of students being enrolled in undergraduate programmes.

Table 1: National University of Lesotho - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (1997/98)


Number of students enrolled per level of study

Major Field of Study

Total Number of Students (Headcount)

Under- graduate degree/ diploma Post-graduate degree/ diploma Masters Degree Doctoral Degree Other qualifications (short courses, certificates etc.)
Science 286 286 0 0 0 0
Law 209 204 0 0 0 0
Social Sciences 626 592 2 0 0 32
Humanities 281 254 1 0 0 26
Education 544 486 20 0 0 38
Other (Agriculture) 67 65 2 0 0 0
TOTALS 2,013 1,887 25 0 0 96

Source: Ntimo-Makara (2003), adapted from 1997 education statistics

NUL reported in its Draft Strategic Plan 2007-2012 that in 2006/2007 there were 374 academic staff (162 female and 212 male) and 308 non-academic staff (157 female and 151 male) at the University (National University of Lesotho, 2007).

[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.