Rhodes University Campuses

Rhodes University Campuses

Rhodes University was founded in 1904, the University has a well-established reputation for academic excellence.

The government and the Grahamstown City Council took steps to help extricate Rhodes from its predicament, and a insurance company lent the college £200 000 on favourable terms. When the Rhodes University Private Bill was passed in April 1949 an appeal for funds was launched. Response from the Rhodes Trustees, the directors of De Beers Consolidated Mines and numerous other public and private organisations and individuals was overwhelming. Soon £100 000 had been subscribed and further £50 000 was promised, with a £1 for each £1 donation pledged by the government.

Rhodes University was inaugurated on March 10, 1951. Sir Basil Schonland, son of Selmar Schonland became the first Chancellor of his alma mater, and Alty the first Vice Chancellor. In terms of the Rhodes University Private Act, the University College of Fort Hare was affiliated to Rhodes University.

This mutually beneficial arrangement continued until the government decided to disaffiliate Fort Hare from Rhodes. The Rhodes Senate and Council objected strongly to this, and to the Separate University Education Bill, which they condemned as interference with academic freedom. However, the two bills were passed, and Fort Hare’s affiliation to Rhodes came to an end in 1959.

Negotiations with the Port Elizabeth City Council culminated in the opening of the short-lived Port Elizabeth Division of Rhodes University in 1961. Rhodes withdrew from Port Elizabeth at the end of 1964 after the government decided to replace the Division with an independent, dual-medium University of Port Elizabeth.


James Hyslop succeeded Alty in 1963, at a time of rapid expansion which continued throughout the decade. Facilities at Rhodes were strained to the limit. When the Community of the Resurrection closed the Grahamstown Training College, the University was provided with a solution to the critical shortage of space. Negotiations began in 1971 to buy the Training College buildings and grounds and a number of adjacent buildings. The Law and Divinity Departments moved into the St Peter’s complex in 1975, followed by Education in 1977 and Music and Musicology in 1979.

Dr Derek Henderson, an Old Rhodian, succeeded Hyslop in October 1975, during the continuing development of the University.

Four St Peter’s residences, Canterbury, Winchester, Salisbury and Truro, were in university use by 1979. The beautiful chapel of St Mary and All the Angels, designed by Kendall, is now the Rhodes University Chapel. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1980. The deconsecrated Chapel of the Resurrection now houses the Rhodes University Museum.
The former mother house was restored with generous outside assistance and was re-opened as the Gold Fields Centre for English during its centenary month of July, 1992.
New buildings linking the University’s main quadrangles and the Library were formally opened in 1985. They included Geography, which completes the second quadrangle. With English, Geography and the existing Library it also forms a third quadrangle, to complete the development of the University’s central area.

Generous gifts from mining houses enabled the University to complete the Kimberley Hall complex by opening Gold Fields House in 1985 and De Beers House in 1988. A new residence, named Allan Gray House, in the Drostdy Hall complex was constructed as a result of a generous donation by Allan Gray Investments. It was opened to students in 1993. In addition, a new residence, called New House, was built in the Jan Smuts Hall complex, and was commissioned in 1994.

Despite steady growth, Rhodes is still as small university whose excellence is in part a product of its smallness. Over the years, the number of residences and halls has increased to accommodate about 4000 students with almost half the student population living in the 52 residences. Classes are still small enough to make individual tuition in tutorial groups feasible.

Dr David Woods, also an Old Rhodian, succeeded Henderson in May 1996. A review of academic departments and administrative divisions led to a “re-engineering” of Rhodes to take it into the next century, with Dr Seleem Badat being appointed as the first black Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University from June 2006 to July 2014. Dr Sizwe Mabizela took over the reins in 2014.

The future of Rhodes lies not in greater numbers, but in increasing academic excellence and building upon almost a century of academic achievement.

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