Academic achievers choose UP

Posted on January 22, 2015

One of the top young mathematical minds in the country and a swimming champion who beat cancer and obtained seven distinctions in matric was among the long list of achievers who were welcomed at the University of Pretoria (UP) on Saturday, 17 January. 

More than ten thousand new first-year students, including hundreds of top academic achievers, attended the University’s Welcome Day before embarking on the orientation programme on Monday 19 January.

UP has become known as a university of choice for some of the top young minds in the country and further afield. In previous years, about a third of matriculants who obtained six or more distinctions in their final exams chose UP.

This year, the University welcomed, amongst others, Julia Alsemgeest, one of the country’s top scorers in Mathematics, to the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences where she will study actuarial science.

Ruan Ras was the top achiever from Tuks’s hpc Sport School and received seven distinctions. This champion swimmer dreams of representing South Africa at next year’s Olympic Games despite the fact that he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma four years ago. Ruan explains that he always stuck to his personal motto: Never give up. He says he is ready to face 2015 and its challenge of juggling his studies in architecture and his preparation for international swimming events.

Ruan acted as representative for 2015’s first-year students during the traditional TuksAlumni tree planting ceremony that formed part of Welcome Day. Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Mr Neeltjie Wilkens, Deputy Chairperson of the TuksAlumni Board and Ruan each planted a forest bushwillow (Combretum kraussii). The tradition started almost 15 years ago and the tree is a symbol of a specific student group who will themselves become alumni in years to come.

For the 2015 first-year intake, UP received more than 42 000 applications for the 10 250 available places. Currently, this research-intensive university has more than 63 000 students of which almost 50 000 are contact students. Of the contact students almost 4 500 are international students from all over the world.

The 2015 intake is in line with the long-term growth and development plan for the University, known as UP 2025. The plan allows the University to manage the growth of the institution carefully. The number of undergraduates is expected to increase by 1,4% each year and the number of post-graduates by 2,2% per annum. Growth targets at undergraduate level are differentiated in accordance with identified areas selected to address the country’s human resource needs, especially in scarce skills areas vital for economic growth. Faculties seeing an increase in  numbers include Engineering, Built Environment and Technology (UP has the biggest school of engineering in the country), Health Sciences and Veterinary Sciences, who have both increased their intake dramatically over the past three years to meet national demands, as well as Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Many of the young Einsteins who were welcomed on Saturday will find an academic home in these faculties.

- Author Department of University Relations

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