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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) recently launched the Unfurling Post School Education and Training (UPSET) Project via Microsoft Teams. This comes after DUT was awarded funding of R7 950 000 by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to assist in the implementation of this project.

DUT, as the anchor institution will be playing a leading role in the development of Articulation Implementation Plans (AIPs).

The Programme Director was Mr Zwakele Ngubane, Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations at DUT. Esteemed guests were; DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, CEO of Universities South Africa, Prof Ahmed Bawa, CEO of the Council on Higher Education, Dr Whitfield Green, President of the South African Public Colleges Organisation and Principal of Majuba TVET College, Mr Sanele Mlotshwa, UPSET Project Coordinator, Prof Darren Lortan and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at DUT, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya.

In his welcome address, Prof Mthembu, said the launch took off from important goals that various organisations have set. He made reference to the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals, which focus on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

“When you look at the executive summary of the National Development Plan of South Africa, it includes a proposal to improve the quality of education in underperforming schools that further education and training colleges. Universities of Technology are in that space of training young people for the workplace but as we would do at DUT, and other Universities of Technology, we are also focusing now on not just limiting ourselves to workplace but for entrepreneurial exploration. We, as the Durban University of Technology have a strategy that we call ENVISION2030, which draws a lot from the documents that I mentioned earlier and we hope to realise some of these objectives and goals in the area of education. We hope to cultivate and harvest a distinctive education for our young people, by establishing mutually beneficial partnerships that entrench DUT as an engaged university,” said Prof Mthembu.

Furthermore, he added many ways that the UPSET Project is an exemplar of initiatives that DUT ensures that the ENVISION2030 is realised. He referred to it as a project that seeks to explore partnerships that collectively realises the national policy imperatives of access through articulation. Prof Mthembu said that within three years the UPSET Project aims to develop a number of pathways towards the realisation of DUT’s ENVISION2030. Lastly, Prof Mthembu applauded the DUT team behind this project led by Prof Darren Lortan. He commended Prof Lortan whom he said was also part of the team that developed the ENVISION2030, for further developing this project which will not only benefit DUT but many other universities in South Africa and the broader Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector.

Unpacking the UPSET Project was Prof Lortan who is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the project goals and objectives are accomplished, and the planned deliverables are accounted for. He highlighted that DUT will manage the UPSET Project on behalf of DHET and together with a number of Higher Education Institutions that have already developed articulation initiatives with Colleges, they will all form the first cohort of participating regional hubs. The Regional hub and their articulation partner institutions will constitute an articulation cluster, comprising of articulation champions from partner institutions who will be responsible for developing regional implementation plans.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Bawa said this project has the potential to change the scenarios facing the higher education system and TVET sector. Discussing the building blocks for this project, Prof Bawa said it would be to start with a social justice rubric due to the unequal society they live in.

“There is deep poverty, whatever interventions we make, they must be underpinned by the societal justice rubric. The social justice rubric becomes a guiding light for the project as a whole, that it does not cause harm, it really shifts the agenda towards building a more equal society. It ensures that we address the deep issues around social mobility and the eradication of poverty. The project should be linked to the vast changes taking place in the labour market. This project must look into the future, labour market will go into serious change in the future with the adaptation of the digital technology. Thirdly the project should address the multiple pathways of how young people engage in learning. We still face a challenge that there is no full proper articulation between universities of technologies and the traditional universities, that is something we still have to deal with. When we think about this project, we have to think about the articulation of skills and learning throughout the post school sector” said Prof Bawa.

Elaborating more on the project, Dr Green said the articulation issue have been high on the national agenda.

“As we constructed this notion of post school education and training, the issue has come even more complicated, as something we have to pay much attention too. The Council on Higher Education also has a strong focus on promoting articulation. We are doing this through a range of research work, in partnership with other organisations and through a range of publications on the subject. All of this is leading to the development of a policy in higher education that will be a facilitative of articulation as we go forward,” said Dr Green.

Representing the public colleges, Mr Mlotshwa said an articulation in TVET sector means an opportunity for TVET students to access higher education in universities through vertical qualification or horizontal qualification. He said it is an important exit strategy for students who want to further develop their qualifications from TVET to a higher qualification at a university. Furthermore, Mlotshwa said this is an opportunity for students to expand education opportunities and become multi-skilled by accessing other academic programmes that will enhance employability.

In her vote of thanks, Prof Sibiya thanked all the speakers for gracing the launch and for their support of the UPSET Project. In her closing remarks, she said with this project, DUT hopes articulation will become a norm rather than an exception to higher education access.

Pictured: DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu

Simangele Zuma

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