The university nobody wants to touch

2011-07-23 18:36

The future of medical university Medunsa is under threat after an investigation determined it should separate from the University of Limpopo, putting its R50 million a year funding in jeopardy.

A task team has recommended that Tshwane-based Medunsa (Medical University of SA), which has been part of the University of Limpopo since 2005, return to being a stand-alone institution.

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, the University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor and his University of Cape Town counterpart Max Price, who did the investigation, said the de-merger would cost Medunsa at least R50 million a year and government would still have to pump in more funds to keep the institution afloat.

They warned that government would have to modify the funding formula to subsidise Medunsa.

At the time of the merger in 2005, Medunsa ran at a loss of between R50 million and R88 million, according to Makgoba and Price’s report.

The deficit, which stood at R50 million in 2009, was subsidised by the main University of Limpopo campus. The academics found that Medunsa was not viable and sustainable as a stand-alone institution.

Medunsa and the then University of the North in Mankweng, outside Polokwane, merged to form the University of Limpopo after higher education was reconfigured in 2005 by late education minister Professor Kader Asmal.

This was despite the campuses being 300km apart.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi appointed the task team last year.

“Medunsa should not be closed but supported to play a meaningful role in the future education and training of health professionals,” says the report.

The academics say the only benefit Medunsa gets from the merger is the R50 million subsidy it receives from the University of Limpopo in Polokwane.

After the merger, the number of medical graduates dropped from 200 in 2005 to 134 last year.

Last year the university also risked losing its medical degree accreditation from the Health Professions Council of SA, a move that would have barred it from taking students.

Medunsa has 3 500 students, which will make it the smallest university if it becomes a stand-alone institution.

According to the report, the Limpopo health department, students, academics and other university employees were opposed to the continued relationship with Medunsa.

The report found that the neighbouring universities of Tshwane and North West were also not keen to merge with Medunsa.

Medunsa staff are opposed to a merger with the University of Pretoria, which has a medical faculty, mainly because the previous merger of their veterinary schools negatively impacted on producing black veterinarians.

Nzimande is expected to gazette the new institution in the next few months but Medunsa will continue under the current governance, management and administration.

University of Limpopo spokesperson Kgalema Mohuba referred questions to the higher education department, which did not respond to requests for comment.

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