History of the School

History of the School

The transformation of the Department of Public Administration at the University of Pretoria, which was established as early as 1965, to a large extent mirrors the transformation of the country into a fully-fledged democracy. The founding department initially focused on the training of senior government officials who had substantial experience in the public service and had systematically moved up the ranks.

Although the Department underwent a number of changes during the course of its history, and was even re-established in 1982, the biggest change came about in 1992 when Prof. Christopher Thornhill, the then Head of the Department, established the School of Public Management and Administration (SPMA) at the University of Pretoria. This marked the end of the Department of Public Administration and heralded the start of a new era for the SPMA.

When South Africa’s new democratic government came into power in 1994, the public service changed. People from different backgrounds, who had previously been excluded from acquiring experience of the public service, took up their rightful places and were appointed to senior positions in government. This required a much broader type of training than that previously offered by the Department of Public Administration. The establishment of the SPMA provided the necessary scope to present programmes to train the country’s new public service officials and senior managers.

The SPMA has been privileged to be managed by strong leaders. Prof Chris Thornhill was appointed as Director from 1993 to 1996, followed by Prof Sibusiso from 1997 to 1999.  From 2000 to 2013, Prof. Jerry Kuye was the Director of the SPMA. Prof. Flip Du Plessis was then appointed as acting Director between 2013 and 2014. Since September 2014, Prof Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu as the current Director of the School, has focused on strengthening the position of the School.

The SPMA continues to play a central role in training current, as well as aspiring, public service employees. As a school in a research intensive university which works inclose proximity to the government, the SPMA strives to be the first port of call for high level scientific and policy relevant research.



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