Revoltionising teaching and learning at Wits

New qualifications offered to stay abreast of latest technologies

The numbers do not add up. With more than 80 000 applications for about 6 000 first year places at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2017 — an annual pattern at Wits and other universities — there is no doubt that there is a dire need for more places at South African universities and for access to quality tertiary education. Transformation of the curriculum is equally important. At Wits University we are reviewing our academic programmes to ensure that what we teach is relevant, transformative, innovative and appropriate, and to ensure that our curricula speak to national issues and priorities, within a global context.

Enabling access

The University yesterday launched its first three massive open online courses (Moocs) through WitsX, which is housed on the edX platform. Developed by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, this online learning destination offers Moocs from 90 leading universities around the world. Wits is proud to be the first African university on the edX platform, where we offer free online courses unique to South Africa. In the next six months Wits will offer Moocs in System Dynamics for Health Sciences, Engineering Research Methods, and Results-based Project Management.

Big Data, Astrophysics and Enterprise Risk Management 

The Faculty of Science has introduced several new programmes including a BSc Honours in Big Data Analytics; a BSc honours in Applied Bioinformatics; and MSc programmes in Hydrogeology and Economic Geology. A Postgraduate Diploma in Science in the field of Enterprise Risk Management will be offered from 2018. The BSc undergraduate degree now also includes a Mathematics of Finance course.

The Big Data Analytics honours programme was introduced in 2016 and aims to tackle industry challenges related to scarce skills in the data sciences. This degree covers big data infrastructure, machine learning, and visual analytics, among others. A new Data Engineering programme is also available, which integrates subjects from computer science, data science, physics and electronics to address hardware, software, algorithmic and systems level aspects of big data analytics. 

The BSc in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Wits University was introduced in 2014 to equip students with the foundational knowledge to become leading astronomers in one of the fastest growing local research areas.

Oil & Gas Engineering, Welding Engineering

From 2017 the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering will offer a Postgraduate Diploma in Oil and Gas Engineering, which will lead to a master’s degree in this field. A Postgraduate Diploma in Welding Engineering, which leads to an MSc degree in Welding Engineering or a professional MEng degree in Welding Engineering, is also on the cards.

New Chemical Engineering qualifications

An updated MSc in Chemical Engineering will be presented in 2017, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Metallurgical Engineering. This diploma will lead to an MSc in Metallurgical Engineering, with specialisation options in physical metallurgy, minerals processing and extractive metallurgy, pyro-metallurgy and coal science and technology.

This is in addition to the two master’s qualifications launched in 2014, with specialisations in Mining Planning and Optimisation and Mineral Asset Valuation and a Master of Science qualification in Systems Engineering.

Short courses in development include Environmental Engineering for Scientists and Non-Engineers; Process Safety for Engineers; Metallurgical Engineering for Scientists and Non-Engineers; and Engineering Management. 

A new development is the introduction of part-time studies in engineering. In 2017, we roll out part-time first year engineering across all programmes, including internship programmes aimed at unemployed graduates and drop-outs.

Diversity Studies, Digital Arts & Game Design, Film & Video Studies

The Masters in Diversity Studies develops the thinking skills of Critical Diversity Literacy. This programme aims to enhance the abilities to analyse, interpret, challenge, and contribute to the crucial issues of diversity and how these relate to social justice. 

A new BA in Film and Television Studies was introduced in 2016. This popular degree focuses on filmmaking skills from the first year of study. 

A BA in Digital Arts and Game Design will be introduced in 2017. This sought-after and exciting programme covers digital art theory, game design, digital animation and interactive media concepts, among others.

The ‘Generator Programme’ for Entrepreneurs

One of the newest offerings at the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Wits Business School is the Generator Programme. The Generator has been set at the ideation stage of development of businesses — understanding why an idea will make a good business intervention, how it will add value, testing assumptions, conducting due market and customer diligence, developing a sound business model and understanding self and self-leadership within an ecosystem.

Dual degrees

The Wits School of Law has partnered with the International Institute of Social Studies to offer a joint PhD Programme, which enables students to complete a doctorate degree awarded jointly by Wits and the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Prospective candidates will research areas related to international law, society and development including critical development-oriented aspects of trade and investment, socioeconomic deprivation, human rights and humanitarian law, gender, health and the environment.

Flying high

Wits has teamed up with Embry-Riddle University (ERAU) — globally renowned for its aviation and aerospace expertise — to offer Africa’s first internationally recognised postgraduate programme in Aeronautical Engineering. This Masters in Aeronautical Engineering is a dual degree, enabling students to graduate from the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering at Wits University, as well as from ERAU.

Teaching Skills for Academics

In 2015 the Wits School of Education and the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development launched a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education. This equips academics who are specialists in their particular areas with the pedagogical skills required to teach.

Wits University is at the forefront of producing knowledge and talent for the continent and the world. The innovations in our curricula and programme offerings ensure that we maintain the edge and propel society forward. 

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Professor Andrew Crouch is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and the Vice-Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand