1. University World News

College to university – Evolution shows national ambitions (Botswana)

As government authorities in Botswana envisage seeing their country becoming an education hub for Southern Africa, both private and public colleges within the country are slowly but steadily transforming themselves into universities, with four colleges evolving into fully-fledged universities over the last 19 years. The new universities include BA ISAGO University, now based in the capital Gaborone, a private university that was called BA ISAGO University College until 2015. Another is Botho University, also based in Gaborone, the country’s largest private university. It was formerly a franchise of India-based learning institution NIIT, becoming Botho College in 2009 and a university in 2013.  In the public sector, the Botswana Open University (BOU), also based in Gaborone, was until 2017 the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning. Finally, the public sector Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), based in Sebele, north of the capital, became a university in 2013, having formerly operated as the Botswana College of Agriculture. This new status has given these institutions the right to award their own degrees, rather than having to offer degrees certified by outside bodies, as in the past.  But the authority to award degrees is not the only benefit of achieving university status. To be recognised as such, an institution must demonstrate they operate by a set of norms and standards delivering quality higher education. Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) spokesperson Selwana Pilatwe-Koppenhaver explained: “An education and training provider which is duly registered and accredited can award qualifications as long as the learning programme was accredited and based on a registered qualification. The accreditation process will have established that the provider has the necessary resources to offer and award the qualifications.” The BQA spokesperson said education and training providers awarded university status should among other things have a minimum number of students, a minimum number of faculties and a proportion of academic personnel qualified at the professorial level.  “This means the university will have diverse offerings, conducted at the highest levels,” said Pilatwe-Koppenhaver. She said the transformation of colleges into universities was generally driven by an institution’s management, when they decide to increase their ambition and go for growth. “These providers will then apply to increase their scope,” she said, with the BQA acting as the key gatekeeper deciding if a college can become a university, and validating these plans against Botswana criteria for registering and accrediting higher education providers. Applicants would also need to be assessed against more specialised norms and standards in the category of learning and subjects for which they wish to be recognised, she said.  Having worked through such assessments, public universities require the additional step of being established by an act of Botswana’s parliament. Regardless of any move to university status, Botswana’s private higher education institutions cannot tap government funds for their operations. Maybe partly as a result, 74.5% of the country’s tertiary education is offered through public institutions, while the private sector accounts for 25.5%, according to the Human Resource Development Council.

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2. University World News

SATN joins forces with government to boost PhD capacity (South Africa)

The South African Technology Network (SATN) has partnered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to launch a Staff PhD Capacity Enhancement Programme designed to raise the number and quality of PhDs coming out of universities of technology and previously disadvantaged universities in South Africa. The programme, which launched in Johannesburg in June, gives 50 aspiring PhD students across 11 South African universities of technology (UoTs) and previously disadvantaged universities the opportunity to complete their studies with the help of top lecturers and professors in the country and abroad.  Emphasis is placed on ensuring that candidates complete their PhD studies in the prescribed four-year timeframe rather than the national average of eight years. The programme is structured towards reducing the dropout rate of PhD candidates in South Africa, a figure which currently stands at an estimated 60%. The three- to four-year structured programme is coordinated by SATN, a consortium of universities of technology in South Africa and the Southern African Development Community region, and is funded by the DHET. According to SATN, the content, curriculum and model of programme have been designed to respond to the urgent need to increase the number and quality of academic staff that hold doctorates.  Candidates will be expected not only to produce cutting-edge research and published work, but also train the next generation of doctorate holders in South Africa. “Pursuing a PhD can be a lonely and isolating process so one of the chief benefits of this programme is the cohort model, which allows candidates to learn from peers who happen to be in similar or different disciplines,” said Dr Anshu Padayachee, chief executive officer of SATN.  Candidates began Module One of the programme in June and Module Two in July. Over the five-day period of Module One, candidates engaged in dynamic and interactive sessions that addressed aspects related to research integrity, proposal writing and ethical principles in research. Local and international facilitators were invited to share their knowledge and skills to encourage robust, rigorous and innovative research. So far, candidates are optimistic and full of praise for the programme, with some saying the sessions helped them to reconsider their research topics, have a better understanding of what was expected of them through each stage of the PhD, and clarify theoretical and conceptual frameworks they were unsure about.  The second module, which began on 15 July, focused on principles related to research design and methodologies. Based on a cohort model, the model builds on the idea of collective engagement, and seeks to create opportunities for regional, national and global networking, said Padayachee. The programme aims to contribute to the creation of a collective community of practice, which includes candidates, supervisors and facilitators from multiple disciplines to foster inter- and trans-disciplinary engagement. With an eye on transformation and the need to address gender and racial disparities in South African academia, 79% of the candidates are African Black females. University World News spoke to Fatima Peters, a lecturer in the psychology department at the University of Venda in Limpopo province, who said she feels blessed to have been selected to participate in the programme.

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Download Issue 51 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa 51


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