WSU’s vision for a brighter tomorrow

WSU needs to clearly define its roles and responsibilities to its communities in light of the current implementation of the divisional management system before it can start chartering an adequately informed way forward.

This was the assertion by the University’s Interim Vice Chancellor Prof Khaya Mfenyana on the first day of a two-day Institutional Strategic Planning Workshop held in East London recently.

A number of stakeholders, including the Institutional Management Committee, deans and their deputies, support services staff, convocation, labour and the SRC engaged intensely to produce strategically fruitful and tangible ideas, inputs and recommendations regarding the strategic line the University shall seek to tow in paving the way for an effective and efficient WSU.

Mfenyana said a conscious and concerted decision needs to be taken to steer the University towards finding and augmenting niche focal areas in which to establish a strong foothold as a leading proponent.

“WSU should be a world class comprehensive University that is a leader and institution of choice in selected professional programmes. Such areas would be our undergraduate medical education and training because of its commitment to using problem-based learning pedagogy as a vehicle towards community-based education and social accountability,” said Mfenyana.

Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Chief Director of Academic Planning and Management Support Dr Engela Van Staden laid the perfect foundation from which these deliberations could be launched.

Her presentation on the government’s White Paper policy on the ‘Strategic Direction of Universities Until 2030’ did well to provide some context from which the deliberations could move.

Her presentation touched on the challenges in the higher education that universities together with government must seek to address.

“Our growth provision is still not enough to meet demand – there’s a shortage of skills in the economy, youth are largely without education and training when the leave school, and there’s insufficient capacity to radically expand post-graduate enrolments,” said Van Staden.

She said a champion effort would be needed in order to tackle other challenges which include lack of diversity, weakening quality in the standard of students, poor linkages between institutions and insufficient quality assurance measures. She said these were issues underpinned and intensified by the structural challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Consolidating government ideals on the strategic direction of higher education in the future, Van Staden documented a number of policy objectives contained in the White Paper that would lead the charge in improving the current system.

“We need to build a post-school system that assists in building a fair, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country. Combating discrimination and providing equal opportunities for education for all will be a key component of this endeavour, along with expanding opportunities for the disadvantaged,” said Van Staden.

She said government was looking to increase the headcount of student enrolment by 2030 across South African tertiary institutions to:

  • 1,6 million in public universities (from 940 000)
  • 2,5 million in Technical Vocational and Training colleges (from 650 000)
  • 1 million in community colleges (from 265 000)
  • 500 000 in private institutions

“Through these objectives we trust that we can create a single, integrated, coordinated education and training system that is highly articulated and mutually beneficial for its various components,” said Van Staden.