I must say, I’m particularly proud that I went to Rhodes University. I have such amazing memories of studying and partying there. It’s an unusual campus, away from the big cities, situated in a small, relatively isolated town called Grahamstown. What this means is that most students live in residences and there is a tremendous sense of community and vibe. The education was world-class and it’s where I studied journalism and “new media”, under Professor Guy Berger.

I found there was always a particularly innovative culture there. This was demonstrated by the fact that it was one of the first places in the country (the world too?) to get internet — and I was exposed to the web at quite an early stage (1994? 1995?). In fact, at one stage all international internet access for the country was routed through the university. (Yes that’s right: all early international internet access for the country went through Grahamstown, not Joburg or Cape Town). I remember surfing the web using Netscape 1.1. and using IRC chats (there was no Internet Explorer and no Google). One of the few and most popular websites on the web was the early Yahoo site (still at its academic url) and the official website of the whitehouse (now vastly different under Obama). One of my classmates in the new media class (although a year above me) was my former M&G colleague and good friend Vincent Maher, who also blogs among other things.

So what spurred this sentimental post was an alumni newsletter I received with some facts and figures that I thought I’d share, including that Rhodes is still actually the smallest university in South Africa. This year it anticipates the numbers could grow to 6,700 students. 8,800 applications were received, of which over 1,738 were accepted and registered during orientation week. Of these 8,800 applications, 6 200 were local students and 2 600 were international students.

Some facts and figures from Rhodes this year:

  • 57% of our students are women.
  • 24% of our students or almost 1 in 4 are postgraduates.
  • Almost 23% of the students are international students from over 50 countries around the world.
  • Rhodes has the most favourable academic staff to student ratio among South African universities.
  • Best undergraduate pass rates and graduation rates in South Africa, and outstanding postgraduate success rates.
  • Highest proportion among South African universities of academic staff with doctoral degrees.
  • Best research output per academic staff member of any university in South Africa.
  • Overall among South African universities we have one of the best track records for the winning of Rhodes scholarships.
  • For 2009, 4 out of the 28 Mandela Rhodes scholarships were awarded to Rhodes University students.
  • Almost 50% of all Rhodes’ students and the vast majority of new students, will live in the University’s 46 residences and be associated with its 10 halls, in which up to 9 000 meals will be served daily.
  • Last year two new residences at a cost of R 32 million were opened to house an additional 146 students. A further two new residences housing 208 more students will open this year.
6 Responses to “Rhodes University: My alma mater”
  1. Interesting article.

    A few years after Rhodes I was lucky enough to do a Masters at Cambridge. People often asked me to compare the two university experiences.

    I can honestly say in retrospect that I learned more academically and socially at Rhodes. Student lecturer ratios at Rhodes were much smaller, teaching far more intensive, add to that constant assessment (essays, tutorial, viva’s etc.) and completely computerised, fast and user friendly libraries – and this all in the 80’s and 90’s.

    You can imagine my shock dealing with the library system at Cambridge in the late 90’s (as the 1890’s) – fill in a form, leave it with the librarian and come back three days later … to be told it’s out and thereafter reserved till 2050.

    Socially, while I had a wonderful time at Cambridge and made amazing life-long friends if I compare what we got up to (and learned) about our minds and bodies at Rhodes, Cambridge, again, pales by comparison. Most kids at Cambridge had been doing nothing else since the age of 10 or 12 other than work their butts off to get into the University. Once there, there was very little wildness or experimentation. Unlike Rhodes in my day where we experimented with every type of substance, drink, position, idea, partner, party, religion, food or outfit – experiences making university life then, and life after, a lot more interesting and fun.

    In fact, even today, go anywhere, even very serious business situations, and you’ll always spot the Rhodent. She or he will be the one having the most fun!

    Dunno what Rhodes is like today but if I had kids I wouldn’t hesitate to send them there – with a few dire warnings in advance of course.

    So to all those excellent academics at Rhodes who gave me the greatest gifts of my life – learning and a healthy dose of irreverance – thank you – may your wisedom and laughter bloom eternal.

  2. GOG – Good ol’ Grahamstown :)

    I got there the year before you, Matt, and it took me until April to discover the Internet, which I’d only read about in Bruce Sterling’s “Islands in the Sky”.

    As a first year BA student, I had access to not only a Novell network account (what fond memories of Pegasus Mail and its IM service) but also a Unix account or two – unheard of in those days, where it was only post grad compsci and EE types who had Internet access. We BA women were a huge hit on IRC in those days 😉 We had all the time in the world to be online, unlike BSc students.

    I remember the days before the World Wide Web and Netscape (Mosaic, actually)… Archie, Gopher, Veronica… And of course I was a full-blown IRC addict for a number of years :)

    The joys of a small varsity campus: we were always mixing with different faculties, because of staying in res or digs and because lectures were held in venues which fitted the size of the class. So, for example, I had psychology in Zoo Major, linguistics in Physics Upper and bumped into the compsci students in the Psychology building and maths students in Linguistics. There was no artificial separation caused by the vast distances between arts and sciences, as at UND (now UKZN).

    And, of course, I remember a sweet-faced young Matthew Buckland, who was a friend of a friend of mine from res :)

  3. @anne — yeah was wondering about that omission, and those are stats I’d be interested to see too.

    @CraniumJack — I was an oppie from start to finish. (Parents followed me to Grahamstown). So that’s why your designs have such symmetry :-)

    @Dolce — another notable omission :-)

  4. hey Matt – which res were you in? I attended Rhodes around 1987. took the fines arts degree after flunking a BSc due to Physics. But get this .. at that time Rhodes was forward thinking enough for me to keep Maths, Applied Maths and Computer Arts subjects WITH my newly acquired Art, Fine Art and History of Art courses because … here’s the mojo .. they believed ‘that Math and Comp Sci are actually Art subjects”. Wow.

  5. Very interesting stats, Matt. I’m also a “proud Rhodes journ grad” and think that students now at Rhodes are very lucky. It’s an excellent university. Not sure whether or not they were included in the alumni newsletter, but I think the number of black students would be worth noting — esp as transformation has to be an issue. As far as I’ve been told, the majority of black students at Rhodes are from north of our borders. But, I also hasten to add, that the new VC is particularly committed to increasing the number of local — ie Grahamstonian — students, especially previously disadvantaged children.

  6. They don’t include the number of beers drunk and tequila body shots nailed…tut tut *grin*

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