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Botswana’s S&T university re-sets opening date

Botswana's long-delayed specialist science and technology university plans to open its doors in August 2012, Research Africa has learned.

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) was scheduled to enroll its first students in March 2011. But securing the infrastructure using Botswana’s public-private partnership was a slow process, delaying the project.

Now the first students will be enrolled in August, using a temporary venue because construction of the campus in Palapuye, 270 kilometres north of Gaborone, would not be ready in time, said Shakie Kebaswele. BIUST communications director.

“We are looking for an alternative venue to temporarily house students while the construction is being completed to ensure the university complies with the opening date in August in 2012,” he said.

The project has seemed to be on the rocks since Botswana president Ian Khama commented in 2010 that delays and spiralling costs were likely to affect the government’s plans for the university. There has been speculation that the university would be downgraded to a technical college.

However, in his state of the nation address in November, Khama said that the university would not be scaled down.

Its first phase includes laboratories and on-campus residences for 256 students and 70 staff.

It will start with four programmes in engineering, mining, geology and basic sciences. “We will initially start with fewer academic programmes and add more programmes as space becomes available,” said Kebaswele, adding that academic staff would be hired next year in time for the opening.

The plan to build the university was approved by parliament in 2006, and construction started in 2009. The cost now far outstrips the initial budget of US$1.5 billion, but the exact amount has not been made public.

Botswana has only one university, the University of Botswana.