Driving through the Pretoria West campus of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) there is almost a surreal feeling seeing the trimmed lawns and student buses packed with the ebb and flow of curious minds. The media has depicted these students as hooligans who loot and burn property during protests, but there was no evidence of any violence or damage here. Instead, TUT has maintained its ranking as the number one University of Technology in Africa.
The institution has a steady influx of students all over South Africa: brainy, colourful and eccentric, in pursuit of knowledge and eventually qualifications, to hopefully take full advantage of the democracy negotiated on their behalf. These qualifications, it must be noted, are subject to regulatory institutions such as the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the Council of Higher Education (CHE), to ensure that graduates are able to provide the quality required by various industries.
The higher education framework and transformation
Professor Stanley Mukhola has worked at TUT for 27 years; he’s been there since the merger between the three technikons, been campus director for Soshanguve, and dean of humanities and health sciences. This has enabled him to understand the various faculties and their challenges, making him the best person responsible for teaching, learning and technology.
Mukhola outlines the planned Higher Education Qualification Sub-Framework (HEQSF) aligned academic Programme Qualification Mix (PQM). The role of the HEQSF is to facilitate the development of a single, uniform, nationally co-ordinated higher education system. TUT has resolved to offer a total of 324 qualification programmes aligned with the HEQSF, a significant decrease from 400 programmes that used to be on offer.
Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor has set a deadline to phase out all qualifications that are not aligned to the HEQSF by December 2019, but this institution is keeping ahead of the pack. Students are encouraged to visit the university website and contact centre for more information. Higher education should also involve access to certain qualifications previously exclusively offered at institutions that catered for a minority. The HEQSF is designed to address students’ diverse educational needs as well as industry requirements.
TUT prides itself upon its prosthetics and orthotics programmes
The urgency for deliberate transformation action is now clearly recognised by the Tshwane University of Technology, the country’s largest residential public university in South Africa. TUT has responded to multiple university stakeholders and role-players who have demanded that the institution rapidly advance its transformation towards becoming a people’s university. In order to achieve this, the students should be able to access a wide range of qualification options not only limited to national diplomas, but also bachelor degrees, honours, postgraduate diplomas, master’s and even doctoral degrees.
As part of the new qualification programmes, TUT now offers a PhD degree in science. Mukhola says the institution has also identified new growth areas, particularly in the ICT sector, and has completely new programmes that will enable the future South Africa workforce to remain on par with global standards. The introduction of a Bachelor of Health Sciences, and Bachelor of Nursing — both four-year degrees — will ensure a blending of both theory and practice in an integrated manner.
Then there are the prosthetics and orthotics programmes that TUT prides itself upon. Qualifying graduates will be able to competently apply and integrate theoretical principles, evidence-based techniques, practical experience, clinical procedures and appropriate skills in order to holistically rehabilitate orthotic and prosthetic patients.
Today’s farmers compete in a global trade; those studying crop and animal sciences need to fully understand and create the optimal conditions for top quality produce. TUT is among those institutions offering programmes in line with the National Development Plan and the national agenda.
Modes of delivering education
Distance learning is a viable option for the working class, enabling students to earn an income while obtaining a qualification, over a longer period of time, and with less travel and accommodation costs. The majority of TUT’s faculties offer Saturday and evening classes in order to accommodate the working class. Contact Centre Management is one of those programmes that is meant to accommodate the working class, in a bid to professionalise an already existing industry. Tshwane University of Technology is launching its own online education platform in April. The first group of applicants will enrol for a BTech in Policing and Traffic Management. This serves a dual role, empowering members of the community to find employment in the security services, but they are also trained to respond to security threats in communities. This was deliberate decision, to pilot the online education project and integrate it with social development and community safety.
TUT 101 is programme that aims to induct and prepare high school leavers, from orientation to assimilation, into the higher education system. It will help prospective students learn how to navigate this new environment, which is very different to the school system. TUT also has programmes where lecturers visit schools in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo to educate both learners and teachers on how to be effective in their respective roles. Some of the learners who qualify for higher education training come from dysfunctional schools, and this needs to be considered and addressed in order to ensure high success rates at higher education institutions.
Entrepreneurship vs employment
In collaboration with Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Mukhola says TUT has identified the need for a complete revamp of the institution’s entrepreneurship qualification. This collaboration will ensure that the qualification and knowledge is relevant to the South African society. The TUT campus in Mbombela municipality, for instance, will offer province-specific qualifications where students can qualify in ecotourism and adventure tourism. In Limpopo, home of the TUT Polokwane campus, a similar collaboration with provincial government is leading to curricul um development that is integrated with the provincial development plan.
Aside from acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake, there exists the need to study as a means to earn an income from the knowledge one possesses. TUT has placed an emphasis on its educators familiarising themselves with the new HEQSF to remain effective and maintain quality standards.
Collaborations with other universities and international partners in countries such as Finland will elevate South African higher education institutions up the international rankings. The right combination of will, intention, restructured curricular and institutions geared towards the advancement and progress of the people will surely help to alleviate the unemployment problem in South Africa, particularly among the youth.