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WITS: The ‘Open’ Years by Bruce Murray

A History of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 1939-1959

This second volume by Bruce Murray looks at Wits University’s role in South Africa’s war effort, its contribution to the education of ex-volunteers after the war, its leading role in training job-seeking professionals, the rise of research and postgraduate study and the University’s defence to preserve its ‘open’ status.

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This, the second volume of the history of University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) by historian Bruce Murray, has as its central theme the process by which Wits became an ‘open’ university admitting students of all races, the compromises this process entailed, and the defence the University mounted to preserve its ‘open’ status in the face of the challenges posed by the Nationalist Government.

The University’s institutional autonomy is highlighted by Yunus Ballim in his preface to the centenary edition of WITS: The ‘Open’ Years. He writes: ‘The emerging posture of a university willing to rise in defence of academic freedom was important because this was to become infused into the institutional culture of Wits.’

The book looks at the University’s role in South Africa’s war effort, its contribution to the education of ex-volunteers after the war, its leading role in training job-seeking professionals required by a rapidly expanding economy, and the rise of research and postgraduate study. WITS: The ‘Open’ Years paints a vivid picture of student life through their political activities, the flourishing of a student intelligentsia, the heyday of the Remember and Give (Rag) parade, rugby intervarsity, and the stunning success of Wits sportsmen and women.