The development of universities of technology in the higher education landscape in South Africa
Perumal, Richard Isiah
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To face the challenges of the 21st century, institutions need to address problems experienced by the modern world. The nature of modern work is changing and continually increasing, with knowledge, information and education. As we move further into the information and knowledge age, the workforce will require sophisticated education and training to sustain competitiveness and responsible development. In response to this challenge the DOE restructured Higher Education to make it relevant to the needs of society and industry. In terms of the National Plan Higher Education (2001) many Technikons were either converted to Universities of Technology (UOT) or merged into universities and became Comprehensive Universities. The Traditional University made up the third type of university. As a result three distinct types of institutions emerged, namely UOTs, Comprehensive Universities and Traditional Universities. In this configuration previous Technikons were reclassified as a UOTs and were able to offer degrees also. This research studied the development of UoTs and its evolution to “University” status. After being classified as Universities of Technology, it soon became clear that these universities lacked a philosophy. Its attributes were not clearly formulated by the DOE. It was left largely to the UoTs in South Africa to develop a set of attributes. This study developed an underlying philosophy, attributes, and performance indicators to guide the strategic direction and development of UoTs in creating a unique personality for itself. Five universities were studied in UK, Germany and Switzerland to develop a set of characteristics/attributes and performance indicators that can be adopted in South Africa. Five local UoTs were also studied, together with the South African Technological Network in building a set of common attributes. A Balanced Score Card was designed as a management model. Each attribute was linked to drivers and each driver was linked to performance indicators. The model included the various perspectives and components, which illustrated the interaction and cause and effect relationships. The philosophy of a Learning Organisation was adopted and its principals underpinned the interaction and relationships. This model will ensure that South African UoTs are able to comply with both national and international benchmarks. UoTs pride themselves by ensuring that they produce and apply knowledge to solve real world problems. These universities see themselves as part of the greater society and therefore partnerships are critical to its functioning. Technology transfer and leadership in technology is a key strategic goal in determining its unique position in the Higher Education landscape. The Balanced Score Card was used to develop a management model which is a tool in establishing a UoT with benchmarks, performance indicators and drivers.