RHODES UNIVERSITYEastern Cape
Rhodes owes its unique character among South African universities to a combination of factors some historical, some geographical, some cultural and some architectural. An important influence in this respect is the University’s smallness which, together with its residence system, allows unusually close contact between students and their lecturers, in surroundings that foster fellowship and learning. Small classes mean more personal attention and encourage greater involvement of students in their work. The end result is that successive generations of Rhodes graduates have had an influence on southern Africa and world affairs out of all proportion to their small number.
Old Rhodians are to be found in leading positions, in many different fields of endeavour, all around the globe. The University has earned a world-wide reputation for the high quality of its education and all Rhodes degrees are internationally recognised. In fact, Rhodes has produced a disproportionate number of international scholarship winners.
An ideal environment:
Over the years the campus has grown – today there are about 150 buildings, including 39 residences. Graced with lovely grounds, 203 hectares in extent, an abundance of sports facilities and nestling in the hills of the beautiful and historic city of Grahamstown, the University offers an ideal physical environment for studying. You will live, learn and play in elegant plaster and stone-under-tile buildings, several of which are National Monuments. Others are of considerable historic interest. The campus, long considered one of the most beautiful in the country, is situated in the `Festival City of Grahamstown’, the home of the National Festival of the Arts, SciFest and other festivals. The University’s landscaped grounds and flower-filled gardens invite students to study outdoors and often tutorial groups are seen under the hundred-year-old trees on the St Peter’s campus. A year-round moderate climate lures students outdoors for jogging, walking and cycling as well as for a large variety of sports, art classes or recreation.
During winter, in the Rhodes Union and residence common rooms, you may find students playing a game of pool, lounging in comfortable armchairs, moving to the beat of a band coming from the campus radio station, tuning in to their favourite television shows, or visiting over coffee. The Student Union is a popular spot.
Rhodes lies in what is historically one of the most important areas of South Africa – at the first point of major contact between black and white. The challenge of poverty, urbanisation and education – indeed the challenge of South Africa – is to be found in the community of Grahamstown, providing invaluable material for scholar and humanist alike.
The city is also situated at the meeting point of four different climate zones, offering botanists, geographers, geologists, hydrologists, entomologists, zoologists, and limnologists an amazingly wide spectrum of conditions right on their doorstep.
The campus is small enough for students to make walking a way of life. Owning a car is agreeable but not necessary, Grahamstown is some fifty minutes from the sea and an hour-and-a-half from the Winterberg Mountains. With the Karoo to the north and the coastal plain to the south, it is ideally situated for a great variety of research and recreation opportunities.
Today Rhodes has just under 6000 students, with some fifty-five percent living in the University residences. Students come from all over southern Africa, including Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A number of overseas students enhance the cosmopolitan character of campus life. At the same time, Rhodes could also be described as a most `South African’ university, drawing students from all the provinces of the country. Size has much to do with the warmth and friendliness at Rhodes. With a student body of less than 6000 and an average of one lecturer to fifteen students, friendships develop easily – over breakfast in one of the nine dining halls, during a conversation in a professor’s office, or while taking a late night study break at Kaif (the student cafeteria).
Rhodes has students from rural and urban settings, from private and government high schools, and from families at every economic level. The characteristic these individuals hold in common is the ability to achieve. Many have already proven themselves outside the classroom as well: on the sports field, in music and drama and in student affairs. About fifty-five percent of the students live on campus in residences. But even those who live off campus experience the community atmosphere for which Rhodes is so well known. Both those in residence and Oppidans (students who live in town) participate in common events sponsored by the University and the Students’ Representative Council.
Counselling and career services:
An active Counselling and Careers Centre offers comprehensive and confidential counselling to students to assist them in dealing with a full range of personal, emotional and vocational problems. A well-subscribed Graduate Placement Programme runs during the third term where over sixty national and international employers visit to recruit students. There is also an Academic Development Centre which co-ordinates an excellent tutoring system within academic departments. Some Rhodes students know where they are headed; others want to find out. Either way, students get wide exposure to study and career opportunities with professional guidance to help match interests and abilities with career options.
More than thirty sports are played at social, inter-house, inter-hall, league, provincial or national level, with over eighty-five percent of students taking part. There is a section on sport elsewhere in the Handbook.
Most religions are represented at Rhodes and dining halls offer a variety of diets to accommodate religious needs. There are various Christian, Far East, Hellenic, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish societies on campus
By voice or vote, students influence every aspect of life on campus, from planning to curriculum, from sport to student welfare. Student representatives sit on administrative advisory committees, on Senate and other bodies which discuss campus issues and concerns. The Rhodes Students’ Representative Council, led by elected representatives, gives students the responsibility for governing themselves, communicating student concerns and effecting change on campus. Through the Hall and House Committees, students at Rhodes establish and enforce the rules of social conduct necessary for living together.
Cultural and extra-curricular activities:
There are over forty societies affiliated to the Students’ Representative Council, giving ample opportunity for all to develop leadership experience and contribute to campus life. The societies are varied: there are political organisations, a campus radio station, a student newspaper, a chamber choir, a debating society, religious groups, cultural groups, etc.