North-West University

IN JANUARY 2004, the University of North-West (previously the University of Bophuthatswana) merged with the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education to form North-West University. It seemed an unlikely union – yet it’s working. The new university’s tagline is ‘Innovation through diversity’. And in 2008, the university won the Price
Waterhouse Cooper ‘Best governed university’ competition, the Pan-South African Language Board’s ‘University that has done the most for nation building and multi-lingualism’, and the Department of Science and Technology’s ‘Most innovative university’.

The roots of the Potchefstroom institution are to be found in the Theological School of the Reformed Churches of South Africa, established in 1869 in the Cape Colony and transferred to Potchefstroom a few years after the Anglo-Boer War. In 1921, the Potchefstroom University College came into being, and 30 years later it gained the status of an independent university that provided a wide range of programmes surrounding the original focus on theology. The university in Mafikeng (originally called the University of Bophuthatswana) had a similar beginning. In a pontaneous movement among the people of the region, R100 000 was raised by public subscription because they wanted their own university.  

They got it in the form of a Bantustan institution that emerged into the mainstream in 1994. Not surprisingly, the merger was not without its difficulties. Skilful leadership finally won the day, and now North-West
University delivers its academic services from Potchefstroom and Mafikeng campuses in North West Province, and the Vaal Triangle campus in Vanderbijlpark situated in Guateng. To accommodate the geographical distribution of its campuses, the university has adopted a two-tier  management model. This consists of an Institutional Office that ensures university-wide consistency in policy and procedure. In addition, the three campuses operate as co-ordinated business units; and both the institutional and campus components are represented on the institutional management team.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

There were 27,890 contact students at the North West University in 2006, plus 10,819 distance students. There were 34,828 students that were South African citizens, 3,536 were from other SADC countries, and 345 from non-SADC countries (actual data, 2006).

Table 1: North-West University - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2006)


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, Engineering & Technology 8,533 7,097 317 604 246 268
Business, Management & Law 6,131 4,525 426 949 74 157
Humanities and Social Sciences 12,028 10,161 701 810 332 23
Education 12,016 6,926 4,605 346 138 2
TOTALS 38,708 28,709 6,049 2,709 790 450

 Source: North-West University questionnaire response

Table 2: North-West University - Academic and Research staff (Actual data, 2006)2

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 343
Business, Management & Law 92
Humanities and Social Sciences 333
Education 137

Source: North-West University questionnaire response



[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.
[2] Total numbers for academic and research staff do not tally when calculated by level of qualification, nationality and gender.