The Naming and Renaming programme of Nelson Mandela University symbolically signals the University’s commitment to transformation in naming places, spaces and buildings that enhance the Mandela name while entrenching the institution’s ever-growing intellectual identity.

This ongoing process is part of the renewal of the academy, talking to how heritage can be used to build social solidarity and promote social justice. It dates back to 20 July 2017, when Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University was officially renamed Nelson Mandela University: the only higher education institution in the world to carry the name of South Africa’s first democratically elected President, and one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. This year, on 20 July 2022, our institution marked five years of bearing this name, providing fresh impetus to reflect on our institutional values which include ubuntu, social justice and equality, and environmental stewardship.

The University’s strategic trajectories have been refined and moved forward since the renaming year of 2017. These include areas such as Revitalising the Humanities, the Ocean Sciences Campus and the Medical School. Engagement and transformation have been repositioned through a new executive management portfolio with links between research, learning and teaching. Gender studies have been foregrounded as an issue deeply embedded in the social inequalities the University seeks to address. Another imperative for the University is to become the pre-eminent academic expression of Mandela and the establishment of a Transdisciplinary Institute for Mandela Studies (TIMS) is part of this. The use of institutional culture and symbols reflects the journey The University has been on since the renaming in 2017.

The University has been deliberately engaged in an introspection of the meanings of Mandela for the University community. The University is no longer named after the metropole in which it is located, but after the global icon’s resonant vision, values, and commitments to a more equal, socially just, and democratic world order. Extensive consultations were undertaken to discover what this name means to staff and students.

Over the past five years, these consultations have been expanding across faculties and campuses to address how the University, as a community, can live the legacy of its namesake in impactful and sustainable ways. The concept document developed in consultation with students and staff, seeks to locate the naming and renaming project within a set of fundamental principles and criteria which will help build social cohesion as well as reflect our new identity.

Covering seven campuses and dozens of spaces and places, the University opted to take a phased, precinctbased approach as follows:

• Phase1: Student residences in Gqeberha

• Phase 2 started in 2019 but, due to the interruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, was delayed until 2022. It has now continued with: - Faculty buildings and spaces and George Campus buildings

• Phase 3: Other buildings and spaces identified through consultation, including administration buildings

• Phase 4: Campus names


The Naming and Renaming Policy Guideline provides a progressive guide for revisiting existing names as well as naming future buildings, identified spaces and roads in keeping with the vision, mission and values of the University. The policy guideline considers the University’s vision, mission and values, and resonates the Constitution of South Africa and the ethos of Nelson Mandela.

The Naming and Renaming Policy Guideline specifies multiple criteria for deciding on any name change. These guiding principles and criteria include:

• Redressing imbalances of the past which seek to affirm the indigenous peoples and history of the provinces in which the University is located.

• According and resonating with the vision, values and strategies of the University, whether this is with reference to places, historical events, geographical features, flora and fauna, or concept words.

• Names chosen should as far as possible serve to build social cohesion at the University and inspire present and future generations.

• Giving consideration to the function or feature of the building or space that is being named.

• The primary users, at the time, of a building or place being named or renamed should be given opportunity to make inputs to its name.

In considering the names of people, these need to have had an identifiable national and international significance. They also should include the fields of culture, politics, sport, education and scholarship. Furthermore, they should reflect race and gender equity.

The policy guideline exists not only to facilitate the process of naming and renaming but also to promote the University’s transformation agenda. The name-change process positions the University as an agent of change, embracing values which uphold and respect human dignity and promote equality for all.

Stakeholder engagement therefore has been key in ensuring that the names considered are mutually acceptable. The process is an opportunity for students, and the University community, to engage in deeper dialogue with regard to name changes. Various sub-committees have been established to guide the process and, regardless of the starting point, all proposed choices must go through an institutional approval process.

This starts with the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee and its Naming and Renaming subcommittee and continues through to the University’s highest governing body, Council.

While the correct governance approvals are being followed, permission from the family or trust after whom a building is to be named is also sought.