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Change the world

Yes, the new name, Nelson Mandela University, has been announced in the Government Gazette. When some media houses started to use NMU and Nelson Mandela University, we asked that they refrain from doing so until the official launch. Some happily agreed to this, while others chose to continue to use the new name. Similarly, we have asked staff and students not to use Nelson Mandela University in any official communication until the launch on 20 July 2017.     

NMMU’s values – respect for the natural environment, respect for diversity, excellence, Ubuntu, integrity and taking responsibility – that undergird all that we do, will remain in place as we make the transition. The present engagement sessions – New Name Conversations, student interactions, information sessions with staff – will inform the way forward for the new Nelson Mandela University. 

As shared, the University had hoped to be named Nelson Mandela University as a result of the merger in 2005. This did not happen although the University continued to apply pressure for it to take place. After almost a decade of trying, it decided to finally brand the main building. The material used at the top of the main building will be recycled in preparation for the new logo.

The University Shop will offer a limited selection of newly branded items after the official launch and phase in new items over time. It is still selling NMMU-branded stock, often at discounted prices. Departments that need to order new clothing for their staff or students have been encouraged to hold off on their purchase until the newly branded items are available.

However, you are welcome to continue to wear NMMU branded items. The University is mindful of the financial investments already made and does not expect you to discard your present leisure, sports and corporate wear. The move from old to new is not expected to happen overnight, but will be a transitionary process.

Our academic credibility will not be prejudiced or discredited by the name change. Our commitment towards academic excellence remains. If anything, the acquisition of the name of Nelson Mandela will have beneficial consequences in raising the profile of our academic offerings from certificate through to doctoral level.

Please do not think of the new name in terms of simply dropping the metropolitan, but rather in terms of what the new name - Nelson Mandela University - affords us in terms of national and international opportunities. In many ways, our present name restricts us. It binds us to a particular geographical area. The new name will offer easier access in creating a global footprint and gives us the opportunity to re-examine who we wish to become in line with Madiba’s legacy.

The opportunities associated with being named Nelson Mandela University are massive. While the University is critically aware of the present financial challenges, our new name offers us the chance to leverage new funding globally. All universities will need to find new sources of income as they cannot rely on government funding and students fees alone. Being named after one of the world’s greatest icons gives us a head start in securing new revenue from those who want to be associated with the name. 

The only cost involved in embracing the opportunities associated with the internationally-renowned and revered name of Nelson Mandela in rebranding our University, will be with the launch. All other costs will be absorbed by normal annual operational budgets using a phased approach. The long-term benefits of being the only university in the world to be named after Nelson Mandela will outweigh the initial investment for the launch. 

While the new look for Nelson Mandela University has been decided by top management because of time constraints, our identity as a new generation university still needs to be shaped. Key questions are being asked of staff and students regarding what the name Nelson Mandela means to individuals and what it means to the University going into an uncertain future. What kind of University do we want to become in line with Mandela’s legacy? How do we make this legacy come alive?

New Name Conversations for small groups are being held separately for staff and students, while staff and students are also being encouraged to share among themselves and to offer feedback by the internal anonymous online platform for sharing. Information sessions will take place at Faculty Board meetings and at other staff and student events.

Our identity is still being shaped. It has not already been decided. Staff and students will inform that identity as it collectively re-imagines the type of University it wishes to become in line with the hopes, aspirations and values of our namesake.      

Yes, as part of the name change and transition towards a new identity, the University’s email addresses will change to - e.g.

The present email addresses, however, will not become redundant overnight but continue to be active for many years to come by those who continue to use the old address. The same phased approach took place when three institutions merged into the present-day Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

By using the acronym NMU for Nelson Mandela University, we are devaluing the worth of our iconic name. NMU means very little to anyone outside of university circles, but the name Nelson Mandela speaks volumes around the globe. We would like to avoid what happened to Walter Sisulu University, which ended up being referred to as  “Woo-Sue” (WSU), instead of recognising the highly valued name of this struggle stalwart.