History Of NMMU


History Of NMMU, On 20 July 2017, Nelson Mandela University was officially renamed: the only university in the world to carry the name of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. 

With this name we will be honouring Nelson Mandela by leading our University into a new era of powerful innovation and change.

It is an era where our South African identity combines global self-assuredness with locally actualised intellectual approaches and practices applied to economies, environments, lifestyles, cultures and traditions.

It is an era of respect and sharing with the aim of advancing the needs, lives and aspirations of all our people. We assume the responsibility of being able to stand up and say what our University is doing to improve society and to change the world for the better, which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to doing.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 

We are honoured that the naming of our University has the full support of Mandela’s eldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, the head of the Mvezo Traditional Council and the custodian of the family. It is our unique privilege as a University to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, a man who became the world’s moral compass and one of the greatest leaders we have ever known.


Who we are and what we are becoming as an innovative 21st century institution of higher learning is our way of taking responsibility for the Mandela legacy and ensuring that it is reflected in the way that we teach, learn, do research, engage with our communities, and work and live as students, staff, alumni and our partners.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) opened on 1 January 2005, the result of the merging of the PE Technikon the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) and the Port Elizabeth campus of Vista University (Vista PE). This union of three very different institutions came about as a result of government’s countrywide restructuring of higher education – intended to deliver a more equitable and efficient system to meet the needs of South Africa in the 21stcentury.

NMMU brings together the best traditions of technikon and university education, and draws on more than a century of quality higher education, in a new kind of university that offers a wide range of academic, professional and technological programmes at varying entrance and exit levels.

NMMU has approximately 27 000 students and approximately 2 500 staff members, based on six campuses in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and George. The sites are the North Campus (former PE Technikon), South Campus (former UPE), Second Avenue Campus (former PE Technikon College Campus) Missionvale Campus (former Vista), Bird Street Campus and the George Campus at Saasveld.

The first Chancellor of NMMU was Chief Justice Pius Langa, and Justice Ronnie Pillay the first Chairperson of Council. Dr Rolf Stumpf was the first Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of NMMU, succeeded on 1 January 2008 by Prof Derrick Swartz.

The first step in the merger came with the incorporation of Vista PE by UPE on 2 January 2004, followed by the merger of PE Technikon and UPE on 1 January 2005.

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