AskDefine | Define wits

Word Net

wits n : the basic human power of intelligent thought and perception; "he used his wits to get ahead"; "I was scared out of my wits"; "he still had all his marbles and was in full possession of a lively mind" [syn: marbles]



  1. Plural of wit
  2. senses.
The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (pronounced vit-vaters-rant) is a leading South African university situated in Johannesburg. It is better known as Wits University (pronounced vits).
Due to the 1959 Extension of University Education Act the school was only allowed to register a small number of black students for most of the apartheid era, even though several notable black anti-apartheid leaders graduated from the university. It became desegregated again in the last few years of apartheid. It is the home of the Witwatersrand University Press, one of Africa's leading academic publishers, and also the oldest and largest university press in Africa.


The school was founded in Kimberley in 1896 as the "South African School of Mines". Eight years later, in 1904 the school moved to Johannesburg and changed its name to the "Transvaal Technical Institute". The school changed its name in 1906 to the "Transvaal University College" and in 1910, the school again changed its name to the "South African School of Mines and Technology". Finally, in 1922, the school was granted full university status after incorporating the College as the "University of the Witwatersrand". The area of Milner Park was identified as the location for the new university campus, and construction began in the same year. There were to be six faculties that offered degrees at the University: Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Law, and Commerce.
The school experienced significant growth after its incorporation as a university, growing from a mere 6,275 students in 1963 to over 16,400 in 1985. In 1964, the Medical Library of the Faculty of Medicine moved to Esselen Street, in the Hillbrow section of Johannesburg. During the course of the 1960s, the university opened many new schools and buildings, and acquired a limestone cave renowned for its archaeological material located at Sterkfontein. The Graduate School of Business was established later in 1968 in Parktown. A farm next to Sterkfontein named Swartkrans rich in archaeological material was purchased in 1968, and excavation rights were obtained for archaeological and palaeontological purposes at Makapansgat, located in Limpopo province. The next year, the Ernest Oppenheimer Residence opened next to the Business school in Parktown, and later in the same year, clinical departments at the new Medical School opened. In 1976, Lawson's Corner was renamed University Corner. Senate House, the university's main administrative building, was occupied in 1977. The university underwent a significant expansion programme in 1984, acquiring the Milner Park Showgrounds and renaming it the West Campus. In 1984, the Chamber of Mines building opened. A walkway "The Amic Deck" was constructed across the motorway bisecting the campus, linking the East and West Campuses. In 2004 the Johannesburg College of Education (JCE) was incorporated into Wits under the national department of education's plan to reform the face of tertiary education in South Africa.


The University has 5 academic campuses. The Main campus is divided, by the M1 and Yale Road, into East and West Campuses. The East Campus specialises primarily with the Faculties of Science and Humanities, and the University Senate and administration. The West Campus houses the Commerce, Law, Management, Engineering and the Built Environment Faculties. The Main Campus is home to 6 residences, namely Sunnyside and Jubilee Halls (female residences), Men's Res (College and Dalrymple Houses), Barnato Halls, David Webster, West Campus Village and International House.
Off the Main Campus are three academic campuses, all in Parktown. The Wits Education Campus (WEC) specialises with Education which is a school within the Faculty of Humanities. WEC boasts three female residences, Girton, Medhurst and Reith Halls. East of WEC (across York Road), lies the Medical School which is the administration and academic centre for the Faculty of Health Sciences.
West of WEC (across Victoria Avenue), lies the Wits Business School. It is the leading and most acclaimed Business School in South Africa . Within the Business School borders are the Ernest Oppenheimer Halls (male residence) and Parktown Village I.
There are centres that are not academic but residential and referred to by the University as campuses. These are Graduate Lodge, Campus Lodge, South Court and Braamfontein Centre; all next to the Main Campus in Braamfontein. Then Paktown Village II and Knockando Halls (a male residence) in Parktown, and Esselen Residence in Hillbrow.

Faculties and Schools

The University consists of five faculties:

Commerce, Law, and Management

The faculty currently offers various undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in accountancy, commerce, economics, management, and law. It boasts the acclaimed Wits Business School, as well as a graduate school devoted to public and development management. The faculty participates in the WitsPlus programme, a part time programme for students.

Engineering and the Built Environment

Health Sciences


This Faculty consists of schools of Arts, Education, Social Sciences, Literature and Language Studies among others.


Notable Campus Buildings

  • Art Galleries: There are two art galleries that are open to the public, the Gertrude Posel Gallery and the Studio Gallery. Both of these are located in Senate House. The Studio Gallery is renowned for having one the best collections of African beadwork in the world.
  • Rock Art: The JD Roberts-Pager Collection of Bushmen rock art copies is located in the Van Riet Lowe building on the East Campus.
  • Museums: The University hosts 14 museums. These include the Adler Museum of the History of Medicine, the Palaeontology Museum and the only Geology Museum in Gauteng Province. The displays cover a vast spectra including the Taung skull, dinosaur fossils and butterflies.
  • Sterkfontein Caves: Near Krugersdorp. World renowned as one of the largest sources of hominid fossils in the world. The area has been awarded World Heritage status. The Robert Broom Museum is next to the caves.

Alumni and Former Faculty

Books about the University

  • The Golden Jubilee of the University of the Witwatersrand 1972 ISBN 0-85494-188-6 (Jubilee Committee, University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits: The Early Years : a History of the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg and its Precursors 1896 - 1936 1982 Bruce Murray ISBN 0-85494-709-4 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits Sport: An Illustrated History of Sport at the University of the Witwatersrand 1989 Jonty Winch ISBN 0-620-13806-8 (Windsor)
  • Wits: A University in the Apartheid Era 1996 Mervyn Shear ISBN 1-86814-302-3 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • Wits: The "Open Years": A History of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1939-1959 1997 Bruce Murray ISBN 1-86814-314-7 (University of the Witwatersrand Press)
  • A Vice-Chancellor Remembers: the Memoirs of Professor G.R. Bozzoli 1995 Guerino Bozzoli ISBN 0-620-19369-7 (Alphaprint)
  • Wits Library: a Centenary History 1998 Reuben Musiker & Naomi Musiker ISBN 0-620-22754-0 (Scarecrow Books)


wits in Afrikaans: Universiteit van die Witwatersrand
wits in German: Witwatersrand-Universität
wits in French: Université du Witwatersrand
wits in Swedish: University of the Witwatersrand
wits in Venda: Yunivesithi ya Witwatersrand
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