Five Reasons to Celebrate the First 150 Years of The University of South Africa (Unisa)
Based in Pretoria, Unisa attracts a third of all higher education students in South Africa. Through various colleges and affiliates, Unisa has app. 370,000 students, including international students from 130 countries worldwide, making it one of the world's mega universities and the only such university in Africa. It has a staff of 7,000 and has led the world in distance education at scale since 1947. Founded in 1873, it has enabled many to access higher education who would otherwise not be able to. Amongst its graduates are Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In 2022 it graduated 54,581 students.
In 2023, Unisa celebrates its first 150 years of achievements and success. We join in these celebrations. Here’s why:
- Unisa is highly engaged in community transformation: Unisa currently organizes over 100 registered community engagement projects, which are making significant changes in people’s lives across the country. As a university strongly rooted in its mission to support national development and social justice, Unisa positions itself as a vehicle for social transformation. Through its community engagement projects, it aims to respond to the needs of South African communities. In total, these projects have reached over 600,000 people.
- Unisa is leading higher educational institutions in Africa in the work of de-colonizing the curriculum: In line with its character of being the African university, Unisa recognizes the importance of developing and supporting the use of South Africa’s Indigenous languages. The College of Education’s NQF level 5 examination question papers were provided in 11 languages in the previous end-of-year examinations. One of the many benefits associated with using Indigenous languages in education is preventing delays in learning. This initiative proves Unisa’s commitment as a university rooted in its Africanness. Its Curriculum Policy states that Unisa promotes “African thought, philosophies, interests and epistemologies through inquiry, scholarship and partnership” and “The time has however dawned for the African continent to utilise existing and new African knowledge and insights that will enhance and ensure growth and sustainable development.”
- Unisa drives key professions in South Africa: Unisa produces approximately 50% of South African teachers and social workers, while the College of Law accounts for a significant number of the country’s law graduates. Its accounting program is one of the leading providers of qualified accountants – the accounting program received a renewal of its full accreditation from The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) in December 2022.
- Unisa seeks to have an impact on sustainable development and economic growth in South Africa: Through its entrepreneurship and pre-incubation innovation programs, as well as its cross-curriculum commitment to sustainable development, Unisa is seeking to impact next-generation leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs to inform all they do with an understanding of the imperative of sustainable development. On 17 January 2007, Unisa also became a signatory to the United National Global Impact (UNGC). Subsequently, processes were put in place to align Unisa's strategy, operations, culture, research, teaching, learning, and community engagement with the UNGC principles and to make sure that these principles become part of mainstream Unisa thinking. Unisa was the first (and still the only) South African university who has signed the UNGC.
- Unisa pursues scholarship: Unisa has a significant research, innovation and commercialization program. Unisa Press is the largest academic publisher in Africa.
To top it all, Unisa was voted the third coolest university in the country in the Sunday Times Gen Next youth survey 2019, which is considered the leading barometer of youth sentiment in South Africa. Only the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg pipped Unisa to the post.
We celebrate the achievements of Unisa and wish all of its students, staff and alumni well in this celebratory year.