University of Eswatini / History

The University of Eswatini was established in 1972, with its specialisation in Agriculture. Today, it is the biggest and largest research universities in Eswatini. UNESWA has transformed into a dynamic university community of staff and students who come from a range of diverse backgrounds and cultures showcasing numerous global societies. The University was born from a vision to create a space for quality education and for new ideas to flourish. Over the course of its existence, UNESWA has been resilient in its commitment to academic quality.

Read on the history of the University which can be found below:

The University of Eswatini (UNESWA) developed from the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini (UBLS), formerly known as the University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Eswatini (UBBS), which had its headquarters in Lesotho between 1964 and 1975. The UBBS had developed from the Pius XII Catholic University College at Roma – itself the product of a long-held desire for an institution of higher learning for Africans, of the Catholic hierarchy in Southern Africa.

From its foundation, Pius XII was a college of the more liberal University of South Africa (UNISA), to prepare students for the Bachelor of Arts degree. Following a special agreement reached with UNISA in 1954, under which courses were taught and examined, Pius XII was allowed to expand its academic horizons to include courses leading to UNISA’s degrees of Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Science, and a post-graduate Diploma in Education. By 1963 there were 180 students, both men and women, and substantial buildings including a science block, refectory, administrative building and workshops.

However, even by the late 1950s the College had begun to experience hardships that threatened its future – principally shortage of income, and deteriorating ties with UNISA, including restrictions on the College’s policy for the admission of students. By June 1963 negotiations were completed between the High Commission Territories and the Roman Catholic authorities responsible for the College and the new university was established.

The UBLS conferred its first degrees in April 1967, after a transitional period during which former Pius XII College students continued to take University of South Africa degrees. UBLS offered its own four year undergraduate degrees and diplomas in Arts, Science and Education; Law courses took five years, two of them spent at the University of Edinburgh. Students seeking specialized degrees such as medicine, engineering, etc, proceeded to other universities after completing Part I studies in Science. From a total of 188 students in 1964 the university grew to 402 students in 1970, of which 145 were from Lesotho and lesser numbers from Eswatini, Botswana, Rhodesia, South Africa and elsewhere. Meanwhile the number of academic staff grew from 31 in 1964 to 78 in 1970.

Although UBLS was equally funded by the three Governments it had comparatively little presence in Botswana or Eswatini in the first phase of its existence during 1964-70. The only exception being the Faculty of Agriculture (constituted in 1972) at Luyengo in Eswatini. This faculty had developed from the Eswatini Agricultural College and University Centre, opened in 1966. Meanwhile in Botswana the UBLS presence was limited to the activities of the Division of Extra-Mural Services and a small short-course centre which was built during 1969.

With independence, the three countries began to take a closer look at the colonial inheritance of education and to identify the role of UBLS in the training of higher and middle-level personnel. A series of academic planning reports for UBLS were produced after 1966, culminating in the second Alexander Report of 1970. The report recommended the establishment of university campuses in each country and a unified development of higher education and vocational and technical training. The suggested plan was for Part I studies to begin in Botswana and Eswatini, with eventual division of Part II studies among the campuses, and also the consideration of ‘polytechnic’ arrangements for technical and vocational courses.

This report was accepted by the University and by the Governments of Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini in October 1970, heralding the second phase (1971-1976) of UBLS development. Plans were immediately drawn up to spend about one million Rand on campus development in each of the three countries. There were to be new campuses – within the capital city of Gaborone in Botswana and at Kwaluseni in Eswatini.

Funds were obtained from the American, British, Canadian, Danish and Netherlands Governments as well as from the Governments of the three countries, the Anglo-American Corporation and other bodies. Plans for specialized Part II and professional studies on each campus were dramatically advanced by the devolution of Part II Humanities teaching to Gaborone and Kwaluseni, in addition to Roma, in 1974.

Following student unrest at Roma, and strained relations between the central UBLS administration and the Lesotho Government, over implementation of agreed development plans, the Roma campus was precipitately withdrawn from UBLS and constituted as the National University of Lesotho (NUL), on Monday October 20th, 1975. This occurred at a time when a working group on further devolution of UBLS into three University Colleges was preparing its report for the Council of the University (The Hunter Report). The nationalisation of all facilities, monies and files in Lesotho meant that the central administration of UBLS could operate with only limited effectiveness from temporary premises at Malkerns during 1975-76; students from Botswana and Eswatini were immediately withdrawn from the Roma campus on the appropriation of all UBLS property in Lesotho by NUL. Part II teaching of these students was resumed within a few months in Botswana (Economics and Social Studies and Science) and in Eswatini (Law).

In 1976, following the acceptance of the Hunter Report in principle and further negotiations between the University and the Governments of Botswana and Eswatini, the University of Botswana and Eswatini, with two constituent University Colleges, was set up. The new university was dedicated to maintaining and intensifying service to the ideals previously laid out for UBLS by the Botswana and Eswatini Governments. The ideals are summed up in the Second National Development Plan of Eswatini, as playing an increasingly important role in national development not only through the educated manpower needed, but also through (the university’s) great potential as a focus for the academic and cultural activities of the nation’.

The two countries, however, realized that in the long term the two university colleges would develop into independent national universities. A development plan for 1975-85 was agreed, with student numbers rising so as to justify two independent institutions after the 1981/82 academic year; this agreement was effected, as scheduled, in June 1982.