University of the Witwatersrand: Wikis


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Coordinates: 26°11′27″S 28°1′49″E / 26.19083°S 28.03028°E / -26.19083; 28.03028

University of the Witwatersrand
Wits Coat of Arms
Motto Scientia et Labore
Established 1896
Type Public university
Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke
Vice-Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa
Staff 1 951
Students 24 381
Location Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg is a South African university situated in the northern areas of central Johannesburg. It is more commonly known as Wits University. The university has its roots in the mining industry, as does Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand in general.

In 1959, the Extension of University Education Act forced restricted registrations of black students for most of the apartheid era; despite this, several notable black leaders graduated from the university. It became desegregated once again prior to the abolition of apartheid in 1990. Several of apartheid's most provocative critics, of either European or African descent, were one-time students and graduates of the university.



The Great Hall, on the east campus, where graduation ceremonies, ceremonial lectures, concerts and other functions are held.

The university was founded as a school in Kimberley in 1896 as the "South African School of Mines". Eight years later, in 1904 the school moved to Johannesburg and changed its name to the "Transvaal Technical Institute". The school changed its name in 1906 to the "Transvaal University College". In 1908 the Pretoria branch of the school was established, then in 1910 the school again changed its name to the "South African School of Mines and Technology". Finally, in 1922, the school was granted full university status after incorporating the College as the "University of the Witwatersrand". The area of Milner Park, north-west of Braamfontein was identified as the location for the new university campus, and construction began in the same year. There were to be six faculties that offered degrees at the University: arts, science, medicine, engineering, law, and commerce.

The east campus as seen from the north of the campus. The Senate House and high-rise Braamfontein buildings are visible in the background.

The school experienced significant growth after its incorporation as a university, growing from a mere 6,275 students in 1963 to over 16,400 in 1985. In 1964, the Medical Library of the Faculty of Medicine moved to Esselen Street, in the Hillbrow section of Johannesburg. During the course of the 1960s, the university opened many new schools and buildings, and acquired a limestone cave renowned for its archaeological material located at Sterkfontein. The Graduate School of Business was established later in 1968 in Parktown.

A farm next to Sterkfontein named Swartkrans rich in archaeological material was purchased in 1968, and excavation rights were obtained for archaeological and palaeontological purposes at Makapansgat, located in Limpopo province. The next year, the Ernest Oppenheimer Residence opened next to the Business school in Parktown, and later in the same year, clinical departments at the new Medical School opened. In 1976, Lawson's Corner was renamed University Corner. Senate House, the university's main administrative building, was completed in 1977. The university underwent a significant expansion programme in 1984, acquiring the Milner Park showgrounds from the Transvaal Agricultural Society, and renaming it as west campus.

In 1984, the Chamber of Mines building opened. A large walkway named the Amic Deck was constructed across the De Villiers Graaff Highway which bisects the campus, linking the east and west campuses. In 2004, the Johannesburg College of Education was incorporated into Wits as an education campus under the national education department plan to reform tertiary education in South Africa.


The 2009 Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings ranked Wits as 321st in the world.[1]


West Campus residence hall located west of the Gavin Reilly Green, a park in Braamfontein.

The University is divided into five academic campuses. The Braamfontein campus (which serves as the main administrative campus) is divided into East and West Campuses by the M1 (De Villiers Graaff Highway) and Yale Road. The entire campus is bordered by Empire Road (north), Jan Smuts Avenue (East), Jorrissen Street and Enoch Sontonga Road (south) and Annet Road (west). The historic east campus is primarily the home of the faculties of science and humanities, as well as the University Senate and administration. The west campus houses both the commerce and engineering faculties. The Main Campus is home to 6 residences, namely Sunnyside and Jubilee Halls (female residences), Men's Res (College and Dalrymple Houses), Barnato Halls, David Webster, West Campus Village and International House.

Off the Braamfontein campus are three academic campuses, all in Parktown. The Wits Education Campus specialises with education, which is a school within the Faculty of Humanities. The education campus boasts three female residences; namely the Girton, Medhurst and Reith Hall. East of the education campus (across York Road), lies the Medical School which is the administration and academic centre for the health science faculty .

West of the education campus (across Victoria Avenue) lies the Wits Business School. It is the leading and most acclaimed business school in South Africa. Within the business school's borders are the Ernest Oppenheimer Halls (male residence) and the co-ed Parktown Village I.

East of the education campus is the Wits Medical School, which is directly linked to one of its 4 teaching hospitals-Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

There are centres that are not academic although referred to by the University as campuses. These are Graduate Lodge, Campus Lodge, South Court and Braamfontein Centre; all next to the Main Campus in Braamfontein. Furthermore there is Parktown Village II and Knockando Halls (a male residence) in Parktown, and the Essellen Street residence in Hillbrow.

Faculties and schools

The University consists of five faculties:


Commerce, Law, and Management

The faculty currently offers various undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in accountancy, commerce, economics, management, and law. It boasts the acclaimed Wits Business School, as well as a graduate school devoted to public and development management. The faculty participates in the WitsPlus programme, a part time programme for students.

Engineering and the Built Environment

Health Sciences


This Faculty consists of schools of Arts, Education, Social Sciences, Literature and Language Studies among others.


Notable campus buildings and attractions

  • National monuments: Both the Dias Cross and the Great Hall (located on the east campus of the Braamfontein campus) have been granted national monument status.
  • Art galleries: There are two public art galleries, namely the Gertrude Posel Gallery and the Studio Gallery, both located in the Senate House. The Studio Gallery is renowned for having one the best collections of African beadwork in the world.
  • Rock art: The Roberts-Pager Collection of Bushmen rock art copies, located in the Van Riet Lowe building on the east campus.
  • Museums: The University hosts at least fourteen museums. These include the Adler Museum (of the history of medicine), the Palaeontology Museum and the only Geology Museum in Gauteng. The displays include a vast spectra not limited to the Taung skull, various dinosaur fossils and butterflies.
  • Cradle of Humankind: A World Heritage located west of Johannesburg. Both the Sterkfontein and Swartkrans caves are world renowned as some of the largest sources of hominid fossils in the world.
  • Johannesburg Planetarium: [1] opened in 1960, was the first full-sized planetarium in Africa, and the second in the Southern Hemisphere.

Notable alumni and academics

Nobel Prize Laureates

Books about the university

  • The Golden Jubilee of the University of the Witwatersrand 1972 ISBN 0-85494-188-6 (Jubilee Committee, University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits: The Early Years : a History of the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg and its Precursors 1896 - 1936 1982 Bruce Murray ISBN 0-85494-709-4 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits Sport: An Illustrated History of Sport at the University of the Witwatersrand 1989 Jonty Winch ISBN 0-620-13806-8 (Windsor)
  • Wits: A University in the Apartheid Era 1996 Mervyn Shear ISBN 1-86814-302-3 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits: The "Open Years": A History of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1939-1959 1997 Bruce Murray ISBN 1-86814-314-7 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • A Vice-Chancellor Remembers: the Memoirs of Professor G.R. Bozzoli 1995 Guerino Bozzoli ISBN 0-620-19369-7 (Alphaprint)
  • Wits Library: a Centenary History 1998 Reuben Musiker & Naomi Musiker ISBN 0-620-22754-0 (Scarecrow Books)

See also

External links


  1. ^ "University of the Witwatersrand". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 26 January 2010. 


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