Nelson Mandela University says new three-year degree will plug the skills gap

South Africa’s ‘Friendly City’, Port Elizabeth, is technically even friendlier this year thanks to a new marine engineering degree at Nelson Mandela University.

The three year marine engineering degree is currently the only one of its kind on offer, specifically designed in response to an industry call for broader technical training.

“In the form that we are doing it, this is very new territory,” said Howard Theunissen, NMU Marine Engineering and Nautical Science Project Manager. “We currently have 19 students who in November 2020 will hopefully all be graduating.”

The degree grew out of a diploma course originally intended to support the marine engineering requirements for South African seafarers, thereby supporting the objectives of Operation Phakisa – government’s economic development plan.  As such it was also geared to complement the tertiary training already offered by the Cape Town and Durban Universities of Technology, which were fully subscribed, Theunissen said.

However NMU in January replaced the diploma with a three year degree on the back of input from various engineering streams within the faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology. Said Theunissen: “It offers a more academic engineering stream than the diploma – three years theoretical training as opposed to two years, followed by a one year cadetship.”

The broader theoretical base allows for a more rounded curriculum that includes aspect of naval architecture, manufacturing, and scientific and mathematical focus areas like fluid dynamics. In so doing the training goes beyond the requirements for seafarers, and prepares graduates for potential alternative employment in other areas of the maritime economy – not just the operational side.

Said Theunissen: “We started looking at the naval architecture environment, and design and development of vessels. It’s not quite at naval architecture level, more at the technologist level. But our aim is to get to a point where we can offer a fully accredited naval architecture qualification possibly at masters level.”

“We are trying to cover both bases: design, maintenance and manufacturing side, as well as the operational side. Students can then choose their own career. The industry needs a lot more (training) at the technologist level — which is what we have,” he said.

The degree is endorsed by the Engineering Council of South Africa and accredited by the South African Maritime Safety Authority.


  • Tshepang Molefe

    Please I really would like to apply for this course.
    Please can I have contact of this institution.

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