30 September 2015 Volume :3 Issue :45

UKZN Conference Examines Teaching, Policy and Higher Education Development for 21st Century Learning

UKZN Conference Examines Teaching, Policy and Higher Education Development for 21st Century Learning
At the Conference are (from left) Professor Murthi Maistry of UKZN, Professor Narend Baijnath of the Council on Higher Education, and Dr Rubby Dhunpath.

The newly-appointed CEO of the Council on Higher Education (CHE), Professor Narend Baijnath, delivered a keynote address at UKZN’s 9th annual Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference in Durban.

Titled: “Policy and Higher Education Development for 21st Century Learning”, Baijnath’s presentation focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning and Higher Education in South Africa.

Baijnath explored the various ‘push factors’ affecting academia, which included increasing numbers of students and planning-led expansion, which were straining resources and infrastructure and ‘placing tremendous pressure on practitioners within universities as well as within leadership’.

He said unprecedented regulation and demands for compliance, reporting and performance management initiatives were aimed to regularise and enhance governance within institutions. ‘The glory days of being an academic, being left to your own devices, doing your own thing, at your own pace, coming and going as you please – those days are well gone.’

The rationale behind this was an impetus for greater accountability and extraction of greater value from the ‘investments that are made from the public purse’.

Baijnath said universities should prepare students for the digital world, referencing the huge advancements that have been made in technology.

‘Pull factors’ included technological advances in applications for teaching and learning coupled with expanded national broadband infrastructure and the ‘declining costs of devices’ which have led to a ‘conjuncture of possibilities hitherto unimagined’.

He cautioned that there may be skepticism on the side of employers on whether universities were equipping graduates for the changing world of work.

Baijnath concluded that advances needed to be made along the following fronts:

·        Institutional strategy, infrastructure and a deliberate development trajectory

·        Equipping students with access and winning them over

·        Winning over our staff and creating an enabling environment.

As the newly appointed CEO of the CHE, Baijnath said the Council’s primary focus was to improve the quality of Higher Education in South Africa.

Baijnath commended Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, for hosting the ‘highly regarded Conference’. He thanked UKZN’s Professor Michael Samuel and Dr Rubby Dhunpath for inviting him to present at the Conference.

Hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office, the three-day Conference explored issues surrounding Higher Education policy implementation. The Conference explored the theme: “Re-imagining Higher Education policy implementation: can policy learn from practice? Complexities, challenges and possibilities”.

Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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