While Sasol provided some educational facilities, the students had to travel to the Vanderbijlpark Campus in order to complete their practical assignments in the well-equipped laboratories. This resulted in several teething problems. However, with time ways were sought to provide facilities, organise and structure logistics in a better way to allow quality learning to take place. In time some basic laboratories were set up at the site of delivery and students wrote the same exams as were set for the main campus. The campus, which was previously known as Highveld Ridge, contributed primarily to the development of human resources capacity for SASOL. It later extended its services to local industries and communities in the region. The Highveld Ridge Campus contributed to the skills development in the Mpumalanga Province through the following qualification mix: National Diploma in Engineering (Chemical, Electrical, Power and Process Instrumentation), National Diploma in Cost and Management Accounting, National Diploma in Safety Management as well as BTech degrees in Chemical Engineering and Cost and Management Accounting.
In 2019, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, appointed Professor Ihron Rensburg as Administrator to the Vaal University of Technology (VUT). The Administrator was mandated to introduce all necessary interventions and following consultations with Minister Nzimande, to implement where reasonable the recommendations made by two Independent Assessors to the VUT, Professors Pityana and Ralebipi-Simela. One of the recommendations was that the Administrator should investigate the financial viability and sustainability of the VUT’s Sites of Delivery. As a result, the Administrator established a team to assess the viability and sustainability of the Sites of Delivery. The assessment report drew attention to the ongoing decline of student enrolment numbers at the three sites of delivery, the fact that the sites are not financially viable, and that none of the sites has its own infrastructure, which had impacted negatively on the quality of the academic offerings.
The non-financial viability of the Secunda campus has affected VUT’s efforts to continue to operate this site of delivery effectively. The declining number of registered students and the lack of quality educational facilities and infrastructure has had a negative impact on the growth and development of the campus. Despite this, the institution continued to offer teaching and learning in rented spaces, but these were not adequate to service the educational needs of the students. It was therefore recommended that the campus be closed, and that staff, students and the university assets be transferred to the Vanderbijlpark campus. Prior to making a final decision to close the campus, several options were considered:
- The first option was to obtain resources to build a campus with the requisite infrastructure. This option was found to be too costly and VUT would not have had the resources to undertake such a provision of infrastructure.
- The second option considered by VUT was to facilitate the incorporation of the Secunda Campus with the Mpumalanga University. Unfortunately, this proposal was declined by the Mpumalanga University.
- The third option was to privatise the Secunda Campus. One buyer opted to purchase the property and establish a private university. However, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation rejected this option as this is state-owned property. This left VUT with no option but to start the process of phasing out the teaching and learning in stages to give all affected students the opportunity to complete their studies successfully at the Secunda campus.
This recommendation to phase out teaching and learning on the Secunda campus was accepted by the Management Committee (ManCom) and subsequently approved by the Administrator. The process of closing the campus is scheduled to be completed by the 31st of December 2022.
As VUT proceeds with the process of closure, it is important to take note that the VUT Secunda Campus did not register first year students in 2020. The last intake of new students was in 2019. The campus continues to support 2nd and 3rd year students that were in the system in order for them to complete their studies. Therefore, all the currently registered students, including those who still have outstanding subjects, will have adequate opportunity to complete their studies.
The Vaal University of Technology wishes to thank all stakeholders for supporting the campus over the period of its 34 years of existence and believes that the closure of this campus is in the best interests of ensuring medium- to long-term sustainability of VUT’s academic excellence.