Needs of students, employers key to new programmes

The recording of the soundtrack for the film Noem My Skollie, Stellenbosch University's Film Music programmes are aimed at the growing film industry in Cape Town. (Photo: Lindsey Appolis)

The recording of the soundtrack for the film Noem My Skollie, Stellenbosch University's Film Music programmes are aimed at the growing film industry in Cape Town. (Photo: Lindsey Appolis)

Listening to the needs of prospective students, employers and industry is key to the development of new academic programmes — and so is obtaining feedback from former students.

This is according to Professor Ian Cloete, senior director: institutional research and planning at Stellenbosch University. “The challenge is to develop a range of programmes that meet the needs of various role players, but also to provide a solid knowledge base. Meeting these needs is not only a question of content, however; the mode of delivery is equally important.”

‘Blended’ MBA

The blended MBA programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) — to be introduced in 2017 — complements the existing one-year, full-time programme and two-year modular programmes but offers flexibility in terms of mode of delivery. 

In what is described as a “global classroom”, students can attend lectures and interact directly with lecturers and fellow students either physically or virtually through a computer, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet.

This should not be confused with conventional online learning, head of the USB’s MBA programme Martin Butler points out. “The ‘blending’ happens between the actual physical attendance of students in a lecture hall and those ‘logging in’ at the same time via a platform of their choice. It is still synchronous learning, that is to say the students attend class; it is just their place of attendance that is completely flexible. 

“By imparting the required technological skills, not as a module, but embedded into the MBA programme, we are preparing the managers of tomorrow by adding an additional quiver to their set of skills,” adds Butler.

BScAgric agricultural programme

Feedback was crucial in developing the new BScAgric agricultural programme. The programme combines animal science, agricultural economics and soil science within the overall crop production focus area of the former plant and soil science programme. 

The programme is aimed at prospective farmers and farm managers who will have to tend to the technical and financial-economic production planning of a mixed farming system. 

“One is often reminded of how great the need is for experts in the local agricultural industry who have a sound foundation in a series of disciplines — from a knowledge of soil classification, fertilisation and irrigation to grazing — and how it all makes economic sense,” says Professor Theo Kleynhans, lecturer in agricultural economics at Stellenbosch University. 

“Many of our students require multidisciplinary training because they will eventually find themselves in a mixed farming environment where they will produce grain and/or grazing, and add further value through their livestock.”

Education

In 2017, the faculty of education will implement four new Bachelor of Education honours programmes based on a mixed or blended learning mode of delivery, making them accessible to employed education specialists from all over South Africa. 

The new programmes respond to the various needs from the education sector and include educational development and democracy, foundation phase education, language education and educational support.

In keeping with the requirements of the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework, every honours programme includes a research project counting for 25% of the programme credits. The research project will not only give students the opportunity to acquire basic research knowledge and skills, but will also prepare them for more advanced postgraduate studies in education.

Two new Bachelor of Education programmes (focusing on foundation phase education and intermediate phase education) will hopefully also be implemented (if approved), based on the new policy on the requirements for teacher training and development.

Medicine and health Sciences

Advances in the medical sciences also necessitate new programmes and various new Master’s in Philosophy programmes are on offer from 2017. 

The aim of the Infant Mental Health programme is to train competent infant mental health clinicians to attend to the mental health and psychiatric needs of children up to three years old, while the Medicines Development (Pharmaceutical Medicine) discipline has recently experienced remarkable growth both globally and locally. This has created a growing demand for suitably trained scientists in the field.

Not only are skilled gynaecological oncology subspecialists required to provide clinical care, but research on the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, risk factors, prevention and appropriate management of gynaecological cancers has also become a priority — leading to this programme. 

Other programmes include Cardiology, Family Medicine, Maternal and Foetal Medicine and Reproductive Medicine.

Sustainability

The availability of academic programmes related to sustainability is also growing. A Diploma in Sustainable Development will be added to existing offers at Stellenbosch University in 2017 or the following year. 

The School for Public Leadership (SPL) at Stellenbosch University already caters for a growing number of students from the public, private and non-profit sectors by means of the postgraduate programmes it offers. What it has not previously offered is an integrated and focused professional programme for the increasing number of young people who believe that sustainable development is the greatest challenge facing the global policy community and civil society formations today.

Increasingly obvious crises brought on by the perfect storm of grinding poverty and accelerating environmental change are creating demand for an undergraduate programme that has a very specific intellectual and pedagogic focus on preparing young people for professional careers in the sustainable development field. The Diploma in Sustainable Development will fill this gap.

This diploma provides an opportunity for inter- and trans-disciplinary study of sustainable development that draws on all the necessary individual disciplines within a context that exposes young people to the practical realities of sustainable development. 

Food and nutrition security

The proposed MSc in Food and Nutrition Security will address both the local and international need to handle food security and nutrition security, nutritional analysis and management at policy, operational and scientific levels. 

In the programme a broader, more comprehensive approach will be taken, training specialists capable of functioning in a multidisciplinary team. 

Business and commerce

A four-year Bachelor of Commerce programme in International Business was launched this year to address a need to deliver graduates who are equipped to be role players in the international knowledge economy. The programme provides students with an enriched study experience through interaction with international students and the global marketplace.

The programme is a pioneer in business education at the undergraduate level in South Africa. It gives students exposure to different settings and develops their global mind-set through a comprehensive and internationally oriented curriculum. It provides a multicultural experience and the opportunity to create a long-lasting network with students from across the world through a structured exchange programme. Semester 6 is a compulsory international exchange semester, where students will enrol at partner institutions of their choice. 

Another new academic programme is the undergraduate Diploma in Public Accountability that was launched this year. There are substantive numbers of public officials without formal qualifications, but with adequate work experience who stand to benefit by this programme that deals with, among others, public regulation, service delivery and development, including dealing decisively with poverty, inequality and over-consumption. This diploma serves the purpose of providing officials with the opportunity to progress to formal qualifications by means of a blended teaching mode approach.

Film and music

The local film industry has expanded rapidly over the last decade. Not only are more local films being produced than ever before, but Cape Town is also a major film location for international films. Due to the lack of experienced local professionals, the post-production for international films shot here is typically done overseas. This is in spite of the weak local currency and tax incentives offered by government that make local post-production a cost-effective option for overseas production companies. 

The Postgraduate Diploma in Film Music and the MPhil in Film Music will contribute towards the growth of a professional film industry in South Africa that creates more employment opportunities.

SU is awaiting SAQA approval for the MSc in Food & Nutrition Security, the Diploma and MPhil in Film Music, the MPhil in Infant Mental Health and Medicines Development and for some of the  Bachelor of Education honours programmes.

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