Many South African Higher education institutions are facing increasing numbers of requests for Joint degree offerings of academic programmes. In terms of the South African context, the issue of Joint degrees is not entirely new because of institutional practice but what has changed is that when the Department of Higher Education and Training published the first draft national internalization policy and in that policy they tackled a vast amount of time on the issue pertaining to collaborative, joint, dual degrees.
The conversation on joint degrees is ongoing and was also the theme of the one-day workshop held by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Directorate of International Education and Partnerships, at the Riverside Hotel, Durban North, on 10 February 2019.
The workshop was facilitated by Dr Samia Chasi, the current Strategic Advisor to the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA).
She reviewed the academic terminologies, history and relevance of joint degrees in relation to the South African context and the DUT context, also exploring more into the systems and processes required for the introduction of Joint Degrees.
According to the draft national internalization policy, a joint degree refers to a degree awarded by joint decision of the partner institutions at the successful completion of a jointly offered single study programme by two (or more) higher education institutions. If the partner(s) cannot come to a joint decision to award the joint degree, none of the partners may then proceed to award the degree outside the agreement as a single institution degree.
Dr Chasi focused on key areas pertaining to the institutional context, academic requirements, legal issues, quality assurance and accreditation, funding, the student journey and the challenges of introducing joint degrees at DUT.
She opened the floor to discussions to the DUT academic attendees, adding that the workshop may not be able to find all the answers, but the ideas was to look at asking the right questions in terms of forming a forum and taking it forward. Dr Chasi emphasised that there needed to be vital consideration for the academic and administrative requirements literally, from applications through to registrations and right up to graduation.
“It’s a consultative discussion as an idea gets planted because it takes time to get started. It is a new adventure you have to think about carefully, also from both for a student and supervisor perspective,” she stressed.
She also added that there needs to be ongoing operative mechanisms in place at universities, lots of engagements, clear guidelines and there should be a lot more preparedness for the introduction of Joint degrees.
DUT’s Dr Lavern Samuels, DUT IEP Director, also highlighted that a major challenge was academic dissidence in terms of supervisors. “It is best to know what to expect from each partner, especially with existing University partners in decision-making and to also know what to anticipate from each other from the start of the academic, joint degree journey,” he said.
Wrapping up the workshop, Dr Chasi thanked Dr Lavern Samuels for inviting her to facilitate the joint degree workshop and his team, specifically Dr Shan Reid, for organising it seamlessly. She also thanked the active participation of all attendees, and added that everyone had a very engaging and rich discussions, informed by perspectives from a variety of administrative and academic units.
“The workshop aimed at informing about relevant policy as well as practice at South African universities and at raising awareness of the complexities involved in developing joint degree programmes, recognising that such an endeavour truly needs to an institutional effort. It also provided attendees with an opportunity to establish links with like-minded colleagues from across the institution. I trust that the Office of International Education and Partnerships will take the conversation forward and coordinate, in close collaboration with the Registrar’s Office, the next steps in moving the University towards an institutional consensus on joint degree policy and practice at DUT,” she said.
Dr Samia Chasi is a practitioner-scholar in HE internationalisation, with 20 years of experience in this field through positions in international offices of German and South African universities, an agency of the European Commission as well as representations of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Nuffic and the British Council in South Africa. While higher education partnerships have been the main focus of her work, she also has gained valuable insights and experience in vocational and entrepreneurship education through initiatives driven in partnership with education institutions, government departments and the private sector.