Senior managers from 18 of South Africa’s 26 Higher Education Institutions and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), have just spent a week (22 to 29 January) collectively grappling with the many issues affecting universities in this country, from a management perspective.
For the participants – who have just started their Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Higher Education Management, run by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – it was an opportunity to brainstorm and develop urgent solutions needed to transform the sector, which has so sharply been foregrounded by the #FeesMustFall movement.
The DBA, conducted via four week-long contact sessions and online over a two year period followed by a dissertation, will go a long way towards developing management capacity in the Higher Education sector in South Africa.
In addition, NMMU will collaborate with experts at other universities to develop a prototype for a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education (HE) Management, and could ultimately lead to the development of other Higher Education Management qualifications.
Both the funding of the DBA in HE Management through the University of Bath and the development of the Postgraduate Diploma, are possible due to R34m received in two tranches from a Teaching Development Grant, awarded to NMMU by the DHET.
Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, NMMU Dean of Teaching and Learning and Programme Coordinator, said the new Postgraduate Diploma would kick off in 2019.
Addressing the group, NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz said the current times presented an opportunity to “rethink the nature of Higher Education and its purposes”.
Although finding funding solutions – and indeed a new university culture to suit a different generation of students – were still to be negotiated and developed, Swartz said it was important to remember that at the heart of everything was “human relationships”.
“Increasing fees, for example, means nothing unless they change the quality of human relationships, to create a more equal, socially just world in which human beings can reach their dreams … Hopefully you will be judged on the basis of your commitment to that.”
DBA student Ms Nandarani Maistry, an Academic Planner at the University of Johannesburg, said she hoped to gain “greater insight and understanding about Higher Education transformation, because there’s still a bit of resistance against change at universities”.
However, she said the environment was such that “either we choose to change or it will be forced upon us”.
“This is the ideal platform to discuss issues that we contend with on a daily basis, and to have a bird’s eye view on the national and global system.”
Mr Themba Mzangwa, Administration Manager in the School of Economics at the University of South Africa (Unisa), said the programme was an “eye opener” in terms of helping participants realise all the work that needs to be done by the Higher Education sector. “It’s not just about helping leadership but about helping the South African society.”
He called the start of the DBA “perfect timing”. “Surely much more is expected from this cohort, in the current context.”
According to Prof Rajani Naidoo, Chair in Higher Education in the University of Bath School of Management and Director of the International Centre for Higher Education Management, “Universities worldwide are facing great challenges … They are expected to contribute to science and social innovation and to solve some of the world’s greatest problems in a context where there are less resources and a changing student population. We need a new type of leader who is able to respond to such changes. The South African participants bring in a wealth of expertise and it is a privilege to work with NMMU.”
Director of Studies Dr Robin Shields, from the University of Bath, said the course highlighted innovations from a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, United States, Mexico, Brazil and Chile.
Prof Foxcroft said, among the many reasons for investing in such a capacity development programme, were globalisation processes, the many changes within the South African higher education system, the high turn-over of experienced senior university leaders and the need to transform the staff complement to better reflect the demographics of the country.
“The programme also affords NMMU the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with South African universities as well as to work with the University of Bath who have a wealth of experience and expertise in facilitating Higher Education management programmes,” she said.
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