Population rate gives Mpumalanga an edge

2012-02-12 14:14

Mpumalanga’s chances of getting a university are much better than that of the Northern Cape because of the higher population rate in the province.

This is according to economist Dawie Roodt. He added that one of the most important factors was that the university be able to fill its classes, and with the Northern Cape being the smallest province in terms of its population size the question of whether it would be able to fill classes should be looked into.

“A university is not a status symbol and it is important to make sure there is a need for it”, he said.

Roodt said if it was decided that the Northern Cape should get a university, it should start off small.

He said the university could start off with just two degrees for which there was a need in the job market.

“In South Africa we quite often mistakenly think that if you have some sort of degree you are cool. We have a fixation with degrees, while a lot of graduates are actually unemployed. So clearly one should have the right kind of degree”, said Roodt.

He said it was also important that the university did not become a political playing field. If market research was done and it showed there was a definite need then it should be done properly.

“A university will ensure a flow of money from national government. Students will need accommodation, and discos and liquor outlets will flourish”, said Roodt.

Jan van Vuuren, president of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Kimberley, said a university would be a major economic boost for the province and especially for the city or town where it would be located.

Currently Kimberley, Upington and Colesberg were in the race - hoping that the university would be located there.

“Students have money to spend and a university will boost the major industries like mining and agriculture,” said Van Vuuren.

He said although the establishment of a university could take between three and five years, he thought it would be an enormous economic injection.

Van Vuuren said Kimberley would be the ideal location for the university. “The provincial government headquarters is here, there is land available and the infrastructure is in place”, he said.

Van Vuuren said the university would also boost the province’s ability to retain its professionals, who were usually lured to other provinces because of better opportunities.

Johan van Rensburg, chief executive of Agri Northern Cape, said it was difficult to make projections on the economic growth that a university would create for the province.

“Too much information - like the size of the university and where it will be located - is still lacking”, he said.

He added that it would be great if the university was in Kimberley, but since the University of the Free State was only 150km away, the obvious choice seemed to be Upington.

- City Press