History of the Potchefstroom Campus, Potchefstroom Campus, NWU

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Potchefstroom Campus history

Small beginnings signalled bigger things to come

Five students and two lecturers – that was the sum total of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (PU for CHE) when it started out more than a century ago. 

How times have changed. By 2004, when it became the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, the former PU for CHE had more than 25 000 students and 500 lecturers. Today, the Campus is by far the largest of the NWU’s three campuses.

Here is the full story of how the Campus has evolved from humble beginnings in 1869.

The Campus started out as the PU for CHE, which in turn developed out of the Theological School of the Reformed Churches in South Africa (GKSA).

On 29 November 1869, the founders of the Theological School in Burgersdorp decided that education would also be offered to prospective teachers and to students without any particular profession in mind. Dirk Postma and Jan Lion-Cachet were the first lecturers, with only five students.

Early in 1877, a literary division/department was established, with its own professor, Petrus Postma. The department was specifically instructed to educate students for academic degrees or as teachers. For various reasons, the Theological School, with its Literary department, was transferred to Potchefstroom in 1905.

In 1919, for the sake of subsidies, the Literary department was separated from the Theological School and "Het Potchefstroom Universiteitskollege voor Christelike Hooger Onderwijs" (PUK) came into being as a higher education institution independent from the GKSA.

In 1921, the Potchefstroom University College, without its familiar "of", was incorporated with the University of South Africa. After repeated attempts, the PUK in 1933 legally regained its title "for Christian Higher Education". In 1951 the PUK was recognised as an independent university known as the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (PU for CHE).

In 1966, the Vaal Triangle campus in Vanderbijlpark (Gauteng Province) was established in response to requests from business and industry leaders in the Vaal Triangle.

In 1996 the first courses via telematic learning systems (contact education over a distance) were offered to learners in more than 25 study centres nationwide.

In 2004, the PU for CHE became the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.