Rhodes University

THE ESTABLISHMENT of Rhodes University was, to begin with, very much a community effort. Higher education began in the Eastern Cape in the college departments of four secondary schools, St Andrew’s in Grahamstown being one.

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, only St Andrews and one other were still preparing candidates for the degree examinations of the University of the Cape of Good Hope.

By 1902, local support for their own institution was bolstered by preference shares being made over to Rhodes University College, which was then founded in 1904. Many vicissitudes and twists were endured through the world wars and Great Depression of the first half of the new century, but Rhodes College survived and was inaugurated as a fully independent university in 1951. Several decades of steady growth followed, supported by a protracted building programme based on plans drawn by Sir Herbert Baker in the second decade of the 20th century.

In spite of this sustained growth, Rhodes remains small – fewer than 6 000 students – by comparison with many of the mainstream institutions, but the university believes that this reality feeds into the excellence of its activities. Most students live in the 39 residences scattered around the
main buildings, and classes are still small enough to make individual tuition in tutorial groups (a system adapted nearly a century ago from the Oxbridge model) feasible. This approach has paid off. Of the more than 1 000 postgraduate students on the campus in 2006, nearly a quarter were at the doctoral level, which in turn reinforces the claim that no less than 35 percent of institutional focus is vested in research. And of the approximately 320 academic and research staff working in the university’s six faculties: Commerce, Education, Humanities, Law, Pharmacy, and Science – more than 265 have Masters or Doctoral degrees.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

Rhodes University had 5,814 contact students and 100 distance students enrolled in 2006. Full-time students numbered 5,077 and part-time 837. Of the student body, 4,490 were South African citizens and 1,151 from other SADC countries, while 273 students were enrolled from non-SADC countries (actual data, 2006).

Table 1: Rhodes University  - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2006)2


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 985 594 1 158 106 0
Business, Management & Law 1,303 1,090 63 112 10 0
Humanities and Social Sciences 2,619 2,126 42 191 72  0
Health Sciences 373 345 0 14 14  0
Education 635 315 83 129 40  0
TOTALS 5,915 4,470 189 604 242 0

 Source: Rhodes University questionnaire response

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

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 96
Business, Management & Law 42
Humanities and Social Sciences 126
Health Sciences 17
Other (Education) 16
Other (unknown) 26

Source: Rhodes University questionnaire response


[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.
[2] Student number totals presented in this table are sometimes slightly different due to slight differences in numbers when working with headcount versus full time equivalent (FTE) data.