Armoria academica

UNIVERSITY OF TRANSKEI / IYUNIVESITHI YASE TRANSKEI, Umtata.

Afrikaanse blasoen

University of Transkei

Arms registered by the Bureau for Heraldry on 27 October 1978. The official blazon reads:

Arms: Per chevron Ochre and Vert a chevron rompu Argent charged with a chevronel rompu Sable, in base an open book proper, the whole within a border Sable fimbriated Argent.

Motto: Progress through learning.

About the arms:
The colours in this design are those of the Republic of Transkei, put together in a highly original fashion, even though the shield contains (almost predictably) a book symbolising learning.

The colour ochre is not usually one associated with heraldry, but since it is the traditional colour of the Xhosa-speaking peoples, it was taken up into the symbolism of Transkei. Green also appears in both the flag and the arms of Transkei.

Despite the demise of the Bantustan state, the colours remain, because of their deep meaning for the people.

The colours black and white (silver) also leap out in this design, since they appear in both the border and the chevron.

The chevron (a chevron rompu) used in these arms is an unusual one, since the middle portion is placed so that its base is aligned with the top of the two outer segments. It is uncommon in British heraldry, but appears to be more common on the European continent.

Together with the device of combining a chevron and a chevronel, the stepped chevron makes a striking, aspiring yet protective outline at the upper end of the shield.

About the university:
Tertiary instruction in Umtata began in 1976 when the University of Fort Hare opened a branch there and began teaching on the campus of the Umtata Technical College.

Lectures were held in the evenings in 13 departments of the Faculty of Arts under the leadership of Professor H W Truter, the founding Dean. The university was governed by a council whose first chairman was Mr D M Ntusi.

On 26 October 1976 the Transkeian Parliament passed the University of Transkei Act. The university was officially opened on 6 May 1977.

Already in 1976 construction on the university’s permanent campus had begun, and in January ’80 the buildings were taken into use. The first Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof B de V van der Merwe, played a major role in planning the facilities.

He also guided the university through its growth from one faculty to six: Arts, Science, Economic Sciences, Law, Education and Health Sciences (originally Medicine and Health Sciences).

Student numbers grew from the original enrolment of 132 to more than 4 000 in 1988, and more than 6 000 in ’98.

All teacher-training colleges in Transkei became affiliated to the university in 1981. The university monitors the academic quality of these institutions, and is involved in the setting and marking of examinations.

In 1985, the Faculty of Health Sciences was established with a curriculum based on primary health care and community-based medical education.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu was appointed to succeed Prof Van der Merwe in 1987.

The Rural Research and Development Institute was established in 1997. RRDI pursues applied research, provides training, establishes appropriate national and international linkages and promotes integrated programmes for the growth and management of rural development, especially in the Eastern Cape.

In April 1997, the Enterprise Development programme was launched by the Department of Business Management in the Faculty of Economic Sciences out of concern for high employment and a lack of large scale business in Transkei. This programme provides support (training and advisory service) to SMMEs (small, medium and micro-enterprises) and targets youth, women, disabled people and rural communities. At the beginning of 1998, the Enterprise Development Centre was established by Prof M Mahabir at the university.

In 1998 the South African Medical Research Council granted funding for the establishment of an Oesophageal Cancer Research Unit.

The university has striven for high academic standards, but has failed to limit its expenditure (especially on non-academic staff) as well as neglecting to insist on the reduction of student debt. Like many institutions that have emerged from the period of homeland rule, it has run up colossal debts while no longer benefiting from the exorbitant subsidies the homeland governments were able to wheedle out of the South African government.

The university’s own plans for the future are optimistic – which is in contrast with the plans of the national working committee on education, which plans to close the university entirely, and to incorporate its medical faculty into a combined Rhodes-Fort Hare university. Current plans within the university are for the medical faculty to comprise schools of medicine, nursing, public health, and postgraduate studies and research.

The university has its own website here.

Afrikaanse blasoen:
Die wapen kan in Afrikaans so geblasoeneer word:

Wapen: Kepergewys gesny van oker en groen; ’n keper rompu van silwer waarop ’n streepkeper rompu van swart, en in die skildvoet ’n oop boek in sy natuurlike kleure.

Leuse: Progress through learning.

Die leuse vertaal as: “Voorspoed deur geleerdheid.”


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  • Source: blazon quoted from registration certificate.

  • Illustration scanned from an illustrated card produced by the university, sent by Niegel Anderson.


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    Comments, queries: Mike Oettle

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