22 April 2014

South Africa: Work Underway for New Medical Varsity

Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande says work is underway towards the establishment of the new comprehensive health and allied sciences university.

The mooted university will be incorporated into the existing University of Limpopo's Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa) Campus in Pretoria.

Minister Nzimande, together with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, had appointed a joint task team (JTT) to investigate the feasibility of establishing the institution. The two ministers today visited Medunsa to engage with the university community before submitting a report back to them on the feasibility of the new university.

Speaking at Medunsa on Tuesday, Minister Nzimande said the task team's report had been submitted to him, Minister Motsoaledi and the university's council.

"I am very pleased to ... report back to you on the considerable progress that has been made with regard to establishing the new university ... It will be important to synchronise all feasibility studies, which are currently underway and related to the new university, so that they can be considered simultaneously by Treasury.

"These include those pertaining to the new academic hospital, the new Polokwane academic health complex, the new Soshanguve hospital and the refurbished Dr George Mukhari Hospital, as well as the feasibility study for the new university.

"With regard to the transitional and incorporation processes, a Protocol for Engagement between the Council of the University of Limpopo and the Interim Council of the new health and allied sciences university has been prepared, with the Department of Higher Education and Training acting as facilitator," he said.

Minister Nzimande said the task team has also recommended an exciting academic model and what is called a "Programme Qualification Mix suitable for a comprehensive health and allied sciences university in the South African context".

This, he said, would include all programmes currently offered on the Medunsa campus. This includes disciplines such as optometry, prosthetics and orthotics and rehabilitation, and other programmes that are increasingly popular internationally.

The minister said it was also important that the new university, which is yet to be named, be financially and academically viable.

"To support the projected increases in student enrolments (a headcount of 7 000 students by 2019, and 10 000 by 2024), existing space on the Medunsa campus will need to be modified, reassigned and better utilised, and a number of new buildings and facilities will be required, including purpose-built administration, student and science and technology buildings, larger teaching venues, an expanded library building and additional recreational facilities.

"It is estimated that the total cost of all new buildings and extensions, alterations and renewals of existing buildings for the first five-year phase (2014-2019) of the new health and allied sciences university is likely to require a minimum initial capital injection of almost R1 billion."

Minister Nzimande also announced an interim council that will be vested with the responsibility of laying the foundation of the new university.

- SAnews.gov.za

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