/ 20 September 2013

A curriculum for the 21st century

A Curriculum For The 21st Century
A curriculum for the 21st century (Photo Archive)

Education is a gift and a great education is a rare treasure, but one that is easy to find at Central University of Technology (CUT).

Students looking for a future in a technologically advanced South Africa are offered a plethora of programmes that have been designed to transform their lives.

“We are proud to announce nine new programmes in 2014 and 2015 through our Strategic Transformation of Educational Programmes and Structures (Steps).

"These form part of our plan to revolutionise our curriculum to offer our graduates the best possible foundation in life,” says Professor Thandwa Mthembu, vice chancellor and principal at CUT.

The university offers opportunities in a number of technology fields that include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) and in which around 45% of CUT’s students enrol.

The student body consist of about 12 500 people across two campuses — Bloemfontein and Welkom — and the qualifications on offer fit into one of four faculties: faculty of health and environmental sciences, faculty of humanities, faculty of engineering and infomation technology and the faculty of management sciences.

“We offer certificates and diplomas at the undergraduate level as well as BTech degrees at honours level, MTech degrees and DTech degrees to develop and manage research at postgraduate level,” says Mthembu.

What sets CUT apart is their Steps programme, which ensures that the curriculum provided gives students every possible advantage.

Their studies will equip them with knowledge, education and practical understanding.

“Since the restructuring started, CUT’s engineering diplomas and BTech degrees have achieved accreditation from the engineering council of South Africa,” says Mthembu.

“Of the new courses to come through over the next two years we have a higher certificate in renewable energy technologies and a diploma in sustainable energy.”

These new courses in renewable energy solutions will provide students with the necessary skills to assess and maintain the renewable energy systems within the industry.

Sustainable renewable energy, and design and studio art are cutting-edge because CUT is the first university in the country to offer them.

In addition there are also two leadership programmes called Stars of Academy and Research (Soar) and Leaders in Education and Development (Lead).

Soar is a long-term endeavour that aims to increase the volume of younger graduates while improving their chances of becoming academics and researchers, with CUT taking first pick to offer them valued positions on the staff.

Lead is about bringing forward a generation of leaders who have the knowledge, capacity and ability to respond to the challenges inherent within current socio-economic conditions.

Another initiative by CUT is its inclusion of a compulsory business ethics module in the first semester of all BTech programmes offered by the departments of accounting and internal auditing, and financial information systems.

The accounting and auditing industry increasingly emphasises the importance of business ethics and this course will ensure that students are able to make informed decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas once they join the workforce.

“The real beauty of this course is its practical component, an incentive-driven project devised in collaboration with international audit firm PwC.

“It has final year students integrating their theoretical knowledge into real life ethical dilemmas,” says Mthembu.

“CUT is still the only university of technology in the country to offer this level of practical learning as part of its curriculum.”

Academic excellence
This focus on knowledge and innovation across all faculties has seen a record level of diplomas and degrees awarded in 2013 and close to 520 graduates in the engineering field alone.

Considering the government’s goal to attain 30 000 developers by 2014, this is exactly in line with what the country needs.

“We are proud to have achieved this important milestone that sets the tone for the university to become an important resource, not only in the region, but to South Africa, Africa and beyond,” says Mthembu.

On the same path of providing for students beyond a rich curriculum and support infrastructure, CUT has formed a relationship with international company, Bell Equipment, which seeks to invest in CUT students for work-integrated learning, and now holds a seat on the engineering advisory committee, which will advise on the curriculum to ensure it has relevance in the current job market.

The university has also established a merSeta Chair in engineering development from 2014 to 2016, which will play a significant role in developing skills and taking engineering to the next level, both within the graduate environment and outwards towards secondary schools and encouraging more women to engage in this fulfilling career.

Today CUT continues to strive for academic excellence in all that they do and aspiring students can visit www.cut.ac.za to find out more about their innovation and research, all programmes on offer and even apply online.

“Our curriculum is at the heart of who we are and is about ensuring excellence in education, the development of talent and making strategic connections to build a strong institution that inspires and creates successful graduates,” says Mthembu.