CAPE PENINSULA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (CPUT)
Submission to the Higher Education Summit 22 and 23 April 2010
CPUT is pleased to submit this university input to the National Stakeholder
Summit on Higher Education. This submission complements the Institutional
Response to the Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and
Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education
Institutions. The submission is largely organized around the themes as outlined
in the Concept Document on the HE Transformation Summit. There are a few
points that fall outside the framework which , because of their importance have
been included as well. This submission maps out what CPUT believes to be the
requisite theory and practice in taking the transformation process at institutional
and national levels.
As in other spheres of the South Africa society the pace of transformation in higher
education has been uneven, sporadic and even hindered by activities that can even be
deemed re-actionary. The Education White Paper 3: A Programme for the
Transformation of Higher Education (1997) set out the new vision for a democratic,
single national co-ordinated system. The major changes that were set up to implement
what was envisaged in the White Paper included structural changes. The reconstruction
of the higher education landscape was executed through mergers and co-options of
institutions. Further, the creation of three institution types sought to bring about a
differentiation among institutions of higher learning. Also, aligned to the new socio-
political dispensation of 1994, the White Paper enounciated new values to underpin and
inform higher education. These included democracy, equity with redress, public
accountability, academic freedom and quality.
Important discourses that appeared in writings on higher education mid-nineties centred
on the notion of the globalization of higher education. This was unpacked within the idea
of the global economy and its inevitable stranglehold on the rest of the world. Such
thinking is largely accountable for the utilitarian approach to education that has evolved.
This is what Chomsky refers to as an “instrumentalist approach ..sacrificing critical
analysis of the social and political order” (Chomsky: 2004, 4). This manifested itself,
inter alia, through arguments that questioned the role and relevance of social sciences
to learning. Inadvertently the shift in practice was towards measureable outputs in
economic terms. The down side to this development was that analysis and theorizing
about the changes in education got pushed to the margins. Reductionism set in where
transformation came to be viewed in terms of numbers and their attendant distribution
The well known incident that led to the Ministerial Commission on Racism in Public
Higher Education Institutions and the subsequent Report on the Ministerial Committee
(2008) mark an important chapter in the story on transformation of higher education.
The Report provides the necessary data, poses fundamental questions and makes
recommendations which the Summit should take as building blocks for the forward plan.
The Summit thus provides space for practitioners and institutions to take stock of what
has happened, as well as, how and why it has panned out in a particular manner.
Importantly, South Africans have to radically re-think the way forward. The rapid
changes that have taken place during the first decade of the 21st century nationally and
globally especially the crisis faced by capitalism in the last two years, call for
appropriate and relevant planning at a national level.
At an institutional level, the major change with the greatest impact for CPUT was the
merger in 2005. The transformation process has thus run simultaneously with the
restructuring and construction of a new institution. As much as the merger was
sometimes a traumatic experience, it also provided an opportunity to filter in new ideas
and thereby influencing the rate of transformation
2. The Student Experience
Students are the crucial sector in higher education and in the transformation agenda. In
numerical terms they are the biggest of the players that are directly involved with Higher
Education Institutions. Their importance lies in the fact that they are the future.
Significantly, their experiences with higher education will have long term impact not just
on themselves, but with the broader society.
2.1 Student growth
There has been a remarkable increase in student intake in higher education since 1994
This is in line with the plan to increase access to higher education especially by those
groups that had been excluded previously White Paper 3, 13. The increase in numbers
in various categories like race, gender and qualification at CPUT has been phenomenal.
Student figures for CPUT
Year Graduands % black students % women % postgrad
2002 4 444 67 53 3
2003 5 225 71 55 2
2004 5 528 71 54 2
2005 5 687 72 54 5
2006 6 847 73 55 5
2007 6 906 75 55 4
2008 6 977 77 56 5
The largest intake of CPUT students are those registered for a variety of diplomas in the
six faculties. During the past five years there has been a marked increase in registration
for Masters and Doctoral degrees as can be seen in the table above.
The diploma qualifications are an avenue through which thousands of students who
otherwise would not have had access to higher education enter. At the same time the
diplomates have an opportunity to proceed to higher degrees. Thus CPUT and other
Universities of Technology make a special contribution to individuals and their families;
the South African society and its economy through the provision of an array of
employees from technicians, technologists for “intermediate skills” (Kraak;2008,vi), to
world class researchers.
• Higher education planners have to pay special attention in ensuring
access with success of a sector of students whose background at family
and educational experience is deprived.
• The possibility of collaboration between the Further Education Colleges
provides an opportunity of not just increasing the numbers of students in
higher education but of also supporting on-going development of mature
students and the workforce.
2.2 Student learning
Higher Education concerns itself with facilitating the learning and development of young
and mature adults through a variety of learning modes. Public Higher Education
Institutions are home to a large number of young citizens who, at an impressionable
age, are being developed to acquire desirable attributes for service to themselves and
The state of education in South Africa needs a concerted effort by the higher education
sector to increase the intake and success of students. The bleeding that the South
African higher education system suffers through a high failure rate, ‘stopping out’
(through lack of funds) and dropping out has to be staunched. The CHE Report on
Improving Teaching and Learning in Higher Education puts forward ideas and
recommendations on improving the low throughput rate, high failure rate especially by
black students in the South African higher education system. Further,
• The responsibility to include and ensure success of students with deprived
educational cannot and should not be carried by the UoTs and Comprehensive
Universities only through their diploma qualifications.
• All institutions should have the national responsibility to admit a quota of such
• A diversified national curriculum is needed to provide a workforce that can
service the needs of South Africa.
• Universities should ensure that all their students are exposed to programmes and
modules that raise social awareness and promote knowledge about
transformation and relate themes like democracy, racism, gender issues, equity
and redress. These can be integrated into curricula or they can be stand-alone
credit bearing offerings
• The funding formula that differentiates between fields of study tends to
disadvantage humanities and social sciences and should be reviewed.
• Higher education should find other methods of supporting Science, Engineering
and Technology without down grading the Humanities.
• Science and Maths Academies that straddle FET and HET should be established
in all provinces as part of a long term project to improve Maths and Science
learning in South Africa
. 2,3 Residences as learning sites
It is generally accepted that leaning takes place in many sites as formally organized
activities as well as informal experiences
University residences should be communities that go beyond providing lodging facilities
for students. Indeed, there are opportunities to develop a number of desirable attributes
among the students. These include ability to work with others, including those who are
different from one, ability to respect and learn from peers. By their nature residences
are diverse communities where inmates encounter different cultural experiences
through interacting with their peers.
At CPUT the plan is to gradually increase residences to be able to take a total of 25% of
the total student intake.
It is in residences where there are noticeable differences on variables like racial make-
up, facilities, and even cultural activities. These differences can be traced to the history
of the different campuses.
However, even in recent times, integration seems to be a challenge. There has been a
noticeable flight of white and Coloured students from residences. The tendency for
student activities to veer towards single racial lines is noticeable even in sporting
activities and student governance.
Attempts are made to break the divisions by promoting
• intergrated sporting codes and cultural activities.
• Formal learning at residences through the provision of computer laboratories and
• Awareness among staff in residences about the agenda to promote learning
rather than merely attending to the basic needs of the students.
2,4 Student governance
The Higher Education Act (1997) sets out quite clearly and forcefully the need to include
students in the governance of Higher Education Institutions. Student participation goes
up to Council, the highest - decision-making body.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) is a statutory body that is to be governed by
a constitution for each institution. SRCs are platforms for the development of leadership
skills, net-working, financial management and accountability, par excellence. A number
of former SRC members have climbed the political and economic ladders at a national
level. SRCs play an important part in intervening on behalf of students on a number of
issues like admissions, residences and staff-student relations.
In some institutions, including CPUT, they have taken a stand against what they
perceive as an unfair increase in fees.
The Report of the Ministerial Committee is silent on the issue of threats to social
cohesion relating to activities by some student leaders. These include frequent stand-
offs between student leadership and management. There also is a tendency to have a
serious student voter apathy that threatens democracy in student governance. The
political and strong ideological affiliations of SRCs sometimes results in strong external
manipulation and interference. The makeup of the SRCs themselves is always heavily
skewed towards African male domination. At CPUT in two successive years 2008 and
2009 the Central SRC had 100% African male membership and 84% respectively.
Some initiatives to promote social cohesion and embed crucial values like democracy,
respect, inclusivity and gender awareness include;
• Using technology like facebooks to encourage dialogue among students and
between students and staff
• Identifying activities or campaigns to rally students and staff around, e;g the
3. The Academic Experience
Academic professionals in South Africa do sterling work as developers of learning
minds, producers of knowledge and disseminators of that knowledge. Their cardinal role
they play in the academic project places them right at the centre of the transformation of
higher education. The necessity to change and the call for public accountability have
been perceived in some quarters as verging on interfering with the autonomy enjoyed in
academia. Further tension is identified in the call for equity among higher education
staff a move that is equated to lowering of standards and threatening quality. This
argument is based on stereotypic thinking that women and blacks, groups that have
been in the minority in higher education will bring limited value to higher education.
What is not fully appreciated is the novelty in approach and experience that these
formerly marginalized groups have the potential to inject into the system.
Discussion on transformation and development in higher education has to go beyond
the game of numbers to an in-depth analysis of the needs, impact of interventions and
re-strategising. Statistically there has been a steady growth of women and black staff .
Interestingly, it is in the higher echelons of higher education institutions- Vice
Chancellors and Deputy Vice Chancellors - that one gets a higher percentage of
participation of the designated groups. Then again there is a ballooning in numbers at
the junior lecturer, demonstrator level. The middle belt of HoDs and senior lectures is
still dominated by white males.
3.1 Staff development
Human capital is central to effecting growth and development . The notion of staff
development has been tackled in a number of institutions using different approaches.
CPUT and a few other institutions like Rhodes University offer a qualification to staff on
pedagogy and the science of higher education. The fact that the majority of candidates
for the qualification is made up of junior lectures means that the new ideas will take time
to seep into departments. This is a good but slow initiative.
Real challenge lies with working with senior academics on curriculum development and
epistemological transformation. The issue at hand mainly lies with the question of
identity of academics. At a senior level these professionals have a strongly developed
identity shaped around their research areas. This sometimes relegates teaching and
higher education development to a secondary position. Also, the fact that the South
African student body is increasingly becoming a diverse sector means that higher
education practitioners should have an awareness of cultural, religious and linguistic
nuances as they inter-act with their students
Plans to change the status quo could include :
• Availing resources to fast track the development of staff from designated areas.
• Exposing senior academics to alternative paradigms on teaching and designing
• . Knowledge of South African indigenous languages by higher practitioners and
the development of these languages as academic languages have to be taken
• Changing promotion criteria to foreground evidence of engagement with
transformation in higher education.
• Engaging broader key stakeholders in higher education including among others,
CHE, SATN, SETA, Academies and Research Councils.
4. Experiences of Leadership, Management and Governance
Contradictions and tensions that run through the higher education system (Badat; 2009,
463) tend to play themselves out dramatically in the arenas of leadership, management
and governance. The HESA input on leadership spells this tension out clearly keeping
the balance between academic priorities and needs and expectations of external
stakeholders especially policy makers.
The Higher Education Act has a number of stipulations outlining the roles and
responsibilities of various bodies, committees and councils. In addition there are Codes,
Delegation of Authority and Guidelines prepared to assist in the execution of duties.
The centrality and promotion of representivity in many of the governing structures brings
a convergence of the old and new streams together. In essence this is the nature of all
South African communities. The counting of the figures in the membership partially
addresses the challenge to change. This is mainly because in some cases figures are
just not going to add up for a very long time. An example is the membership of senates.
Also, including representation from a number of constituencies is compromised by the
fact that those carrying the burden of change are stretched to the limit and often burn-
out and the old order re-surfaces under the guise of new order.
The Soudien Report has recommended training of Councils and keeping of a healthy
balance between internal and external members to avoid domination of Councils by
management (17). The HESA response is mainly around the need for resources. The
debate and rearch should be taken further.
• Higher education researchers, theoreticians should explore the challenges of
post-conflict situations. (Jansen begin this discussion (2009, 255-278)
• There should be further research and wide engagement on developing theories
and concepts on mining treasures from war dumps. I
• Indigenous Knowledge Systems should be fore-grounded in the process. For
example the concept of ukuchebana iinduma1 has not been explored enough in
the reconciliation discourse.
A conflict resolution and peace‐making practice among some South African indigenous
communities includes figurative tending and cleaning of the opponents wounds. Ukuchebana
iinduma literally means shaving and cleaning the weals on an opponent’s head.
• Training and development of all- Councils, Vice Chancellor- should be prioritized.
There needs to be time for this aspect if transformation is to be taken at a deeper
level beyond numbers.
5. Institutional differentiation
The process of higher education transformation exists in a context of broader and wider
changes taking place worldwide. This was highlighted in the 2009 World Conference on
Higher Education held in Paris (http://www.unesco.org/en/wche 2009/). Institutional
differentiation touches on among other issues, the Western versus/and national identity
of a University. Makgoba argues strongly for differentiation ( University Differentiation is
a Reality of our time, 2006). His argument is mainly based on academic rankings that
have become a feature of our times. He bemourns the fact that no African university
featured in the top 200 universities in a comparative report on world universities
whereas, Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, Russian, and Australian Universities did appear.
In a South African context the debate about university differentiation should also
include, naturally, the earlier history of differentiation and its legacy as well as the
effects and efficacy of the restorative processes that have been tried hitherto .
Secondly, recognition of the complications that have come out of the creation of the new
institution types and its implications on the institutions themselves as well as the
national understanding of the types. Lastly, universities in a developmental state need
not be the same; nor should they be like the “Golden Diamond[Cambridge-London-
Oxford-Manchester]“ (1). All countries and societies need to use and be informed by
research findings (Olsson and Mkandawire ; 2009, 25-40). South Africa is no exception.
Indeed, there is an urgent need for the research pool and quality of research to be
expanded and it cannot be limited to a select few whose focus to the needs of the South
African society cannot be assumed. In the context of “Golden Diamond” above, all
South African universities have the mammoth task to evolve into lustrious platinums that
are dense, malleable and resistant to rust.
Closely related to the institution type is the Higher Education Qualifications Framework
(HEQF) that has been in some quarters including CPUT seen as impeding articulation
of students from UoTs with a diploma background. In essence such a stance is
perceived as being anti-poor, in view of the fact that it is mainly students with poor
academic backgrounds who pursue the diploma route.
The debate on differentiation should be broadened and include a wider section of the
South Africa society than has been the case before. Such a debate and engagement is
to identify national needs which are to include future planning and direction of
development. Institutions can then align themselves with selected niche areas. This
could be accompanied by moving away from the nineteenth century division of
knowledge to an exploration and development of aspects of Gibbons Mode 2 thinking
on knowledge production.
Funding should not and cannot be tied to differentiation as this goes against the need
for redress for those institutions that have come from a deprived past and continue to
serve deprived communities and students.
The Higher Education Summit represents an important moment for the transformation of
higher education. Policies have been constructed and implemented. Now is the time for
a review of plans and strategies that had been put to place. CPUT as one of the re-
structured institutions under the re-shaping of higher education institutional landscape
has covered significant ground in its journey of transformation. Lessons from these
“merged” institutions should form part of the rich heritage on which to reflect and plan.
The Report of the Ministerial Committee, together with research findings initiated by the
CHE and lately, South African Survey of Student Engagement (2009) all provide
essential information that will propel the transformation into the next decade.
1.Badat, S. (2009). Theorising institutional change: post-1994 South African higher
education. Studies in Higher Education. Vol. 34, No.4, 455-467.
2.Kraak, A. (& Press, K. (2008). Human Resource Development: Education,
Employment and Skills in South Africa. HSRC Press.
3. Education White Paper 3: A Programme for Higher Education Transformation.
(1997). Department of Education: Pretoria.
4.Jansen, J.D. (2009). Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and Apartheid Past.
University of Cape Town Press: Cape Town.
5.Macedo, D. (ed.). (2004). Chomsky on Mis-Education. The Rowman &Littlefoot
Publishing Group: oxford.
6.Makgoba, M. (2006). University Differentiation is a Reality of our time. (Unpublished
7.Olsson, B. and Mkandawire, T. in Meek, L Teichler, U. and Kearney, L-L. (eds).
(2009). Higher Education, Research and Innovation: Changing Dynamics. INCHER-
8. Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the
Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions.(2007). Department
of Education. South Africa.
9. South African Survey of Student Engagement. (2009).
10.World Conference on Higher Education. (2009). http://www.unesco.org/en/wche
2009. Accessed 12 April 2010.