Walter Sisulu University

THIS NEW-STYLE ‘comprehensive’ institution was the result of a merger between the former University of Transkei and two technikons, the Border Technikon at Potsdam and the Eastern Cape Technikon in Butterworth. The new Walter Sisulu University, therefore, offers higher education tuition on four campuses – in Mthatha (erstwhile capital of Transkei), in Butterworth, as well as in East London in the Buffalo City Metropolitan area, and at Queenstown. The campuses are situated in the densely populated and generally under-developed far-eastern hinterland of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.

The University of the Transkei was established in the homeland of that name in 1976, initially as a branch of the University of Fort Hare at the request of the homeland government. The technikons were established in the late1980s and early 1990s. The merged Walter Sisulu University came into being in July 2005.

The university’s four faculties – Education; Health Sciences; Business, Management Sciences and Law; and Science, Engineering and Technology  offer students ‘ a wealth of academic choices … ranging from certificates and diplomas to degrees and postgraduate studies’. The faculties are staffed by nearly 700 academics, around 60 of whom hold doctorates and a further nearly 200 are qualified to Masters level. The estimated number of research publications in accredited journals in 2005 was just over 20, but in 2008 the university developed a clearly defined research policy,
which should improve the situation.

Further assistance to establish the university on the academic map comes from the ‘Netherlands Programme for the Institutional Strengthening of Post-secondary Education and Training Capacity’ that links the Walter Sisulu University with two powerful Dutch universities. In addition, European Union funding has supported a ‘Technical and Business Education Initiative’ that implements strategies to ensure that higher education is fully accessible to previously disadvantaged South Africans.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

Walter Sisulu University had 23,516 contact students and 604 distance students enrolled in 2007. Full-time students numbered 1,929 and part-time 4,828. Of the student body, 23,884 were South African citizens and 156 from other SADC countries, while 79 students were enrolled from non-SADC countries (Actual data, 2007).

Table 1: Walter Sisulu University - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2007)


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 4,620 4,592 20 8 0 0
Business, Management & Law 11,822


13 0 0  0
Humanities and Social Sciences 6,528 5,943 501 71 13 0
Health Sciences 1,150 1,067 13 70 0  0
TOTALS 24,120 23,411 547 149 13 0

 Source: Walter Sisulu University questionnaire response

Table 2: Walter Sisulu University - Academic and Research staff (Actual data, 2007)

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 235
Business, Management & Law 233
Humanities and Social Sciences 130
Health Sciences 85

Source: Walter Sisulu University questionnaire response


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