Arms of South African universities

Heraldry in Africa
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Arthur Radburn
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Arms of South African universities

Postby Arthur Radburn » 29 Jan 2016, 19:21

Inspired by the discussion of the University of Manchester arms, here are some South African university arms :

University of Cape Town (originally South African College) — Designed by Charles Bell (the "father of South African heraldry") in 1859, granted by the College of Arms in 1919, registered at the Bureau of Heraldry in 1992.

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Black = Africa; blue = sea; anchor and mural crown = Cape Town; book and lamp = college.

University of Stellenbosch (originally Victoria College) — The arms of the Victoria College, which were a variation of the Stellenbosch municipal arms (which, in turn, were a variant of the arms of governor Simon van der Stel).

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New arms, assumed shortly before the college was reconstituted as the university in 1918. The head of Minerva had been a college emblem since the 1890s, if not earlier.

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University of South Africa (originally University of the Cape of Good Hope) — Granted by King Edward VII in 1903. The rose en soleil referred to the Duke of York (later King George V), who was the university's chancellor.

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The arms were altered in 1986, by removing the rays from the rose, removing the motto from the book, and adding a crest. This is the Bureau of Heraldry artwork ;

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University of the Witwatersrand — Designed by Professor Geoffrey Pearse in 1922, and registered at the Bureau in 1971. This is the Bureau artwork.

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The design is canting : "Witwatersrand" means "ridge of white waters".

University of Durban-Westville — A university for Indian students, hence the lotus flower, the Sanskrit motto on the book, and the lions of Ashoka crest. It looks very much like the work of Alan Woodrow. Registered at the Bureau in 1964.

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Rand Afrikaans University — A very modern design, featuring "a flint within two fire-steels voided". The original version, registered at the Bureau in 1971, consisted only of shield and motto (which means 'Service through knowledge').

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The revised version, registered in 1988, omitted the book, and added a crest consisting of "a representation of the central part of the main building of the university".

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Medical University of South Africa — Another modern design, featuring "two caladrius wings displayed addorsed, with issuant necks and heads crossed saltirewise". Registered at the Bureau in 1979.

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Would other forumeers like to post the arms of universities in their countries?
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Arthur Radburn
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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Michael F. McCartney » 30 Jan 2016, 06:52

Most are pretty nice, especially in the Bureau of Heraldry renditions; except for the crest of the Afrikaner U.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby JMcMillan » 30 Jan 2016, 18:17

I have to doubt the appropriateness of employing the official emblem of the Republic of India as the crest in the arms of the U of Durban-Westville. It's rather like using the royal crest of England for a university attended primarily by British students somewhere in Africa or South Asia.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Chris Green » 30 Jan 2016, 20:25

JMcMillan wrote:I have to doubt the appropriateness of employing the official emblem of the Republic of India as the crest in the arms of the U of Durban-Westville. It's rather like using the royal crest of England for a university attended primarily by British students somewhere in Africa or South Asia.

The Lions of Ashoka pre-date the Republic of India by about 2,200 years and are a traditional Buddhist, rather than Indian, symbol, or rather part of such a symbol, the rest being the Ashoka Chakra, which features on the Indian flag:

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I hardly think that one can criticise the use of the Buddhist Lions in a CoA when many European countries feature the Christian cross on their flags and thousands of individuals in their CoAs.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby JMcMillan » 30 Jan 2016, 23:26

Buddhist or Hindu, the Ashoka Lions are, since 1950, India's official equivalent of a coat of arms, and were obviously chosen as the university's crest for that reason, not any religious connotations. Crowns have no particular religious or national affiliation at all, but if a university used three gold crowns on a blue field just because it had a lot of Swedish students, I'd look askance at it. Likewise the chrysanthemum mon of the Japanese emperor for a place catering to students of Japanese origin.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Chris Green » 31 Jan 2016, 06:28

JMcMillan wrote:Buddhist or Hindu, the Ashoka Lions are, since 1950, India's official equivalent of a coat of arms, and were obviously chosen as the university's crest for that reason, not any religious connotations. Crowns have no particular religious or national affiliation at all, but if a university used three gold crowns on a blue field just because it had a lot of Swedish students, I'd look askance at it. Likewise the chrysanthemum mon of the Japanese emperor for a place catering to students of Japanese origin.


I see your point, but while the Indian Government appropriated and regulated the use of an image of the Ashoka as the national symbol, it was and remains a religious artifact, renditions of which are not and could not be regulated worldwide. Had the Indian Government voiced objections to its use in the CoA in question, the offending crest might have been removed. That it wasn't suggests that no complaint was made. Indeed the Indian Government may have approved its use.

Incidentally, the arms in question were granted to the Indian University College [Salisbury Island], established in 1961, which did not become the University of Durban-Westville until 1972 and is now a campus of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, with, as I understand it, no particular Indian connection nor CoA (the original Indianness if one can use such a word, was a product of the apartheid system). UKZN's CoA, or rather logo, is:

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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Arthur Radburn » 31 Jan 2016, 13:52

Chris Green wrote:I see your point, but while the Indian Government appropriated and regulated the use of an image of the Ashoka as the national symbol, it was and remains a religious artifact, renditions of which are not and could not be regulated worldwide. Had the Indian Government voiced objections to its use in the CoA in question, the offending crest might have been removed. That it wasn't suggests that no complaint was made. Indeed the Indian Government may have approved its use.

The column of Ashoka certainly has an existence independent of its use as the Indian state emblem. As I understand it, the state emblem consists of the lions plus the words "Satyameva Jayati" ["Truth alone triumphs"] in Devnagari script below it, in which case the omission of the words may well be enough to "difference" UDW's crest from the Indian state emblem. However, those words are written, in Sanskrit, on the open book on the chief of the arms, so the designer of the arms may well have been influenced by the Indian state emblem.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Marcus Karlsson » 31 Jan 2016, 16:17

JMcMillan wrote:Buddhist or Hindu, the Ashoka Lions are, since 1950, India's official equivalent of a coat of arms, and were obviously chosen as the university's crest for that reason, not any religious connotations. Crowns have no particular religious or national affiliation at all, but if a university used three gold crowns on a blue field just because it had a lot of Swedish students, I'd look askance at it. Likewise the chrysanthemum mon of the Japanese emperor for a place catering to students of Japanese origin.


The Ashoka Lions also after Independence and the creation of the Republic of India took the place of the British Royal Crown in Rank Insignia, Regimental and Air Force Squadron Badges.

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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby JMcMillan » 31 Jan 2016, 23:15

Chris Green wrote:Had the Indian Government voiced objections to its use in the CoA in question, the offending crest might have been removed. That it wasn't suggests that no complaint was made. Indeed the Indian Government may have approved its use.


I don't feel emotionally attached to all of this; it's merely a matter of academic concern when it comes to good heraldic design. In that spirit, I don't see that a complaint from the Indian Government really bears on the issue. The U.S. government undoubtedly wouldn't lodge a complaint about a foreign university using some component of the American coat of arms, but that wouldn't make it good heraldic practice.

Although I should say that, if my past dealings with Indian officialdom are any indication, there may well be a complaint drafted in 1964 that's still working its way through the North and South Blocks of the Secretariat in New Delhi.
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Re: Arms of South African universities

Postby Arthur Radburn » 02 Feb 2016, 15:08

Some more South African university arms.

University of Pretoria (formerly Transvaal University College) — The TUC had an unusual double coat of arms, assumed around 1911 : two shields acollé, one depicting the head of Minerva and the other a half-tented wagon (the Transvaal quarter of the national arms). The crest was a book on an anchor, derived perhaps from the arms of the University of South Africa, under which the college fell.

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After becoming a university in its own right in 1930, the institution assumed new arms, which were later registered at the Bureau (in 1978). This is the Bureau's artwork :

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The bees are a symbol of Pretoria.

Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education — The arms were assumed in 1922, and registered at the Dept of Education, Arts & Sciences as a "badge" in 1962 and at Bureau in 1991. Again, the Bureau artwork :

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The motto means "In Thy Light".

University of Fort Hare (originally the South African Native College) — The arms appear to date from around 1923. They were registered with the Department of the Interior as a "badge" in 1938 :

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A few years ago, UFH was awarded the Order of the Baobab (one of the national orders) for its role in producing so many leaders. There seems to be no reason why the university could not suspend the badge of the order below the arms, but it has not yet done so.

University of Natal — Established as a university college in 1910. It originally used the arms of the province of Natal, with the addition of a chief. The two elephants on the chief referred to the two campuses (Pietermaritzburg and Durban) :

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New arms were assumed when the college became a university in 1949. They were granted by the College of Arms in 1957, and registered at the Dept of Education, Arts & Sciences as a "badge" in 1962 and at the Bureau in 1988. Here, the two campuses are represented by books :

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University of the Western Cape — The arms, probably designed by Cornelis Pama, were assumed in the 1960s, and registered at the Bureau in 1989. The registered blazon includes a crest, but the university has continued to use the original artwork, which omits the crest and surrounds the shield with a frame of leaves :

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