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Educational Institutions in South Africa

Last modified: 2006-11-25 by bruce berry
Keywords: rhodes university | pretoria university | walter sisulu |
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Rhodes University

image by Martin Grieve, 29 Mar 2005

Rhodes University is located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The University was established on 31 May 1904 as the Rhodes University College, named for Cecil John Rhodes, diamond and gold magnate, imperialist, sometime Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and founder of the British South Africa Company which colonised Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe and Zambia). Donations towards its founding came largely from the trustees of Rhodes's estate (he had died in 1902) and De Beers Consolidated Mines (which he had founded), as well as several public bodies in what was then called the Eastern Province.

On 10 March 1951 Rhodes became an independent university, to which the University of Fort Hare founded in 1916 in the near-by town of Alice) was affiliated until 1959. Under the apartheid dispensation Fort Hare originally accepted Black students only while Rhodes catered for white students.

In the 1960s Rhodes University established a branch in Port Elizabeth, but government intervention saw its campus there being taken over by the new University of Port Elizabeth which in January 2005 became known as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

In the 1980s Rhodes University established a branch in East London which became a flourishing campus, but again further government intervention resulted in this campus becoming part of the University of Fort Hare in 2003.

The flag of Rhodes University is based on its Arms which were granted by the London College of Arms in 1913. The blazon (as recorded on the Deed of Grant) reads:

"Or on a Pile Sable an Open Book inscribed with the words "Sapientam Exquiret Sapiens" between three Escallops of the first. On a Chief Argent a Lion passant gules between two Thistles slipped and leaved proper. And for the crest a Wreath of the Colours upon a Rock the Figure of a Man mounted on a Horse representing 'energy' all Argent".

The excessive use of capital letters and a paucity of punctuation is characteristic of blazons from the College of Arms. It is also characteristic of the College to omit mention of the motto below the shield, which reads: Vis Virtus Veritas.

The symbolism of the Arms is as follows:
Black and gold are the livery colours of the Graham family. The pile (inverted triangle) is characteristic of the arms of Graham of Fintry, while the escallops (shells), an emblem of pilgrimage, appear not only in the arms of Fintry (a cadet branch of the family) but also Graham of Montrose (the clan chief). These Graham symbols signify the university's presence in Grahamstown.

The lion and two thistles were taken from the coat of arms granted posthumously to Cecil John Rhodes and were also found in the Arms of Rhodesia. The references to Cecil Rhodes arise out of his estate's role in establishing the university.

The open book is a common feature of the arms of a college or university; a famous example is Oxford University.

The crest is a representation of the famous statue by Watts which forms part of the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town. The statue, also known as Physical Energy, was a favourite of Rhodes'.

An appalling aspect of the artwork produced by the herald painter, or artist attached to the College of Arms in London, is that the crest-wreath is drawn with the appearance of a tea-tray balanced on top of the helmet. The crest-wreath or torse was produced by twisting silk cloth in two or more colours and was placed around the bolts that held the crest to the helmet, so as to conceal them, and so formed the base of the crest. It must be added that the standard of artwork produced through the College has improved considerably through the 20th century, and is now an exemplary blend of authentic mediæval and appropriate modern styles.

Further details of the University's Arms and its history can be found on Mike Oettle's SA heraldry website  while the University's own website can be found here.
Bruce Berry, 29 Mar 2005

One of the Rhodes University Halls of Residence, the Allan Webb Hall and its four houses, have their own flags. They are shown here:
Valentin Poposki, 28 Apr 2006

Note that the site says that the flags "would" look like that. To me, that says that they don't actually exist; the page is actually about Coats of Arms and then shows how those might translate to a BoA.
Natham Lamm, 28 Apr 2006

Rhodes University is my alma mater. I did my undergraduate degree there between 1981 and 1984 and was in Drostdy Hall. Each residence within Drostdy  had a shield but no flags I'm afraid.

I see from the RU wesbite that Oriel Hall also shows its heraldic shields at
Bruce Berry, 28 Apr 2006

University of Pretoria

 Original image by Mike Oettle, 14 Feb 2002. Remade by Anto'nio Martins-Tuva'lkin, 20 June 2004

This is an illustration of the flag of Pretoria University, which as the name implies is located in Pretoria. The proportions of the colours appear to be two-thirds blue above and one-third red at the bottom. 
Mike Oettle, 14 Feb 2002

  Original image sent by Mike Oettle, 14 Feb 2002 and remade by Anto'nio Martins-Tuva'lkin, 20 June 2004

Walter Sisulu University

  sent by Bruce Berry, from, 26 Jan 2006

Walter Sisulu University, located in Mthatha (formerly Umtata) in the Eastern Cape province, is a new university named after one of the seminal leaders of the African National Congress.  Details are given at, which gives the following details:

On 1 July 2005, the new flag Walter Sisulu University (WSU) was raised in a quiet ceremony at the main campus in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, to mark the establishment of the new University.

The new flag is a radical change for the former merger partners. In addition to bearing the new University’s logo, the flag flies vertically in a break away from the traditional horizontal flag and is flown in a pair at each campus, bearing the logo against both black and white backgrounds. 

WSU was established through a merger between Border Technikon, Eastern Cape Technikon and the University of Transkei.

sent by Bruce Berry,
from, 26 Jan 2006

The new, comprehensive WSU corporate identity “look and feel”, approved on 09 Dcember 2004, allows for a degree of flexibility which is appropriate for a large university with a wide geographical spread. The simple and striking logo remains as the underpinning, constant factor communicating simply and boldly the message that a new university as arrived.

The following six principles form the foundation of the WSU corporate identity:

1. The adoption of the black and white WSU logo with the three-dimensional grey outlining the letters. This will also be used in the reverse of white on black.

2. The principle that the gazetted name of the institution will appear on official documents such as stationery, printed materials and wherever suitably applicable.

3. The principle that a strap-line be applied to all printed materials such as advertisement templates, publications and wherever suitably applicable.

4. The approval of the following wording for the introductory strapline: “A developmental university... technological, scientific, innovative, responsive”

5. The principle of the use of colour to identity and personalize areas of operation. (The colour coding of faculties and areas of operation will be negotiated as part of the implementation process.)

6. The principle that photographic imagery be employed to convey appropriate messages to appropriate target markets in advertisement templates and publications.

Ron Lahav, 25 Jan 2006