University of Venda

THIS UNIVERSITY was established in the wake of the acceptance of ‘independence’ as a so-called homeland state. It is situated in Thohoyandou in the far north of South Africa. At first, after opening in 1982, the University of Venda was staffed by South Africans. Increasingly, however, academics were recruited from other African countries, and from other parts of the world. The result was a cosmopolitan feel, and ‘a
fertile environment for new ideas and a capacity for change’.

The university had originally been set up to offer the full range of courses in humanities, social sciences and natural and applied sciences. After the advent of democracy in 1994, and persuaded by the sustained ‘size and shape’ debate that led to the rationalisation of South African higher education, the university shifted its focus more pointedly to science and technology. The institution accordingly altered its name to the University of Venda for Science and Technology.

The shift has meant an increase in students and staff engaged in the sciences and in their application in health, agriculture and rural development. Five of the university’s eight schools are devoted to the new focus, namely: the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences; the School of Environmental Sciences; the School of Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry; the School of Health Sciences; and a School of Postgraduate and Integrated Studies. In 2008, around four percent of all students were engaged in postgraduate study.

Nor has this new focus been ignored by the corporate sector. Just two examples of corporate interest have been a new computer laboratory funded by PetroSA (this reduced the ratio of students to on-campus computers from 1:146 to 1:88); and an injection of over R1-million by Nissan South Africa into a university-run resource centre that enhances the accessibility to science and mathematics in local high schools.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

The University of Venda had 10,968 full-time contact students in 2008 (actual data). There were no distance students enrolled and no part-time learning was on offer.

Table 1: University of Venda - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2008)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 3,660 3,378 3 82 26 113
Business, Management & Law 4,004 3,859 0 106 0 37
Humanities and Social Sciences 2,560 2,247 60 68 15 170
Health Sciences 744 640 80 0 10  14
TOTALS 10,968 10,124 143 256 51 334

 Source: University of Venda questionnaire response

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

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 90
Business, Management & Law 52
Humanities and Social Sciences 80
Health Sciences 23

Source: University of Venda questionnaire response


[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.
[2] Note that some student number totals do not tally consistently.