University of Limpopo

FORMERLY KNOWN as the University of the North, this new configuration, established at the beginning of 2005, comprises two main campuses: one at Turfloop to the east of Polokwane in Limpopo province, the other at Ga-Rankuwa just north of Pretoria. The old Medical University of Southern Africa (Medunsa) on the latter campus has been incorporated as a full medical faculty into the new university.

Both campuses are situated in the middle of densely populated old ‘homeland’ areas. This brings the university face to face with the full range of developmental challenges confronting rural communities throughout the SADC region. The Turfloop campus in particular is a visual manifestation of the university’s fundamental aim: to be a leading university that addresses the needs of African rural communities. From the top floors of many campus buildings, the crowded plains of Sovenga spread outwards to the horizon. ‘We’re in the middle of a huge human laboratory,’ remarked one academic.

The origins of the new university are rooted in the apartheid past. The Turfloop campus is on a site chosen by Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, erstwhile Prime Minister and father of separate development. A tertiary college was opened in 1959, and a decade later full university status was achieved. The development of the medical school for black students at Ga-Rankuwa was a response to the perceived black frustrations thought to have motivated the 1976 Soweto uprisings.

In spite of its origins and location, many centres of excellence thrive on both campuses. Two examples must suffice. The Diarrhoeal Pathagens Research Unit at Ga-Rankuwa has pioneered important work on the development of a vaccine for the deadly rotavirus, a Southern African scourge. The Materials Modelling Centre at Turfloop is a leader in the field of computational modelling techniques to develop metal alloys and polymers, not least relating to platinum, Limpopo province’s economic backbone.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

In 2007, the University of Limpopo had 17,469 contact students, of whom 14,348 were full-time and 3,121 part-time. Of these, 16,905 were South African nationals, 331 SADC nationals and 233 non-SADC country citizens (Actual data, 2007).

Table 1: University of Limpopo  - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2007)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 3,546 2,971 273 248 54 0
Business, Management & Law 4,723 4,197 142 379 5  0
Humanities and Social Sciences 4,803 3,739 687 338 39  0
Health Sciences 4,397 3,488 89 697 57  0
TOTALS 17,469 14,395 1,191 1,662 155 0

Source: University of Limpopo questionnaire response

Table 2: University of Limpopo : Academic and Research staff (Actual data, 2008)

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 572
Business, Management & Law 201
Humanities and Social Sciences 373
Health Sciences 838
TOTALS 1,984

Source: University of Limpopo questionnaire response


[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.
[2] Totals by level of study and by gender do not always correspond exactly.