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The DUT Community Engagement Cluster is formed under the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Innovation and Engagement [DVC-RIE], Durban University of Technology [DUT]. The cluster consists of DUT staff who champion initiatives, efforts and activities that focus on establishing the university as a responsible, relevant and active partner of the community in addressing the needs of the society. The cluster facilitates collaboration between DUT staff, students, as well as alumnus and the community for meaningful university-community engagements.
In 1997 the White paper on The South African Higher Education System [SAHES] was developed to set out an agenda for the transformation of the system of higher education in the country. The idea was that the higher education system moves from being segregated and inequitable to a single national system that serves both the individual and the society’ needs. As a result, community engagement [CE] is cast as one of the pillars of this system along with traditional teaching-learning and research. The Higher Education Quality Committee [HEQC] has identified a “knowledge-based community service” as a basis for program accreditation and quality assurance and requires a specific reporting on CE against Criterion 18 in institutional audits. The HEQC’s framework for Institutional Audits specifies the approach to qualify which includes social transformation as one of the Higher Education Institutions’ [HEI] civic responsibility alongside individual transformation.
The DUT’s strategic plan 2.0 has 2 DNA strands, and the plan lists them as Student Centredness and Engagement, they are the core of the university’s element structure. The DUT’s strategic plan 2.0 has four strategic focus areas [SFA], and SFA 2 is ‘Building research and innovation for development.’ The Strategic Objectives [SO] which provide a framework for action for SFA 2 are listed as follows:
- 1 Contribute to meeting local, regional and national challenges by strengthening research, innovation, and engagement;
- 2 Strengthen and expand a supportive research, innovation and engagement culture;
- 3 Deepen the University’s engagement through dynamic dialogue and interfaces at local, regional, national and global levels and sustainable innovation and entrepreneurial platforms for research and innovation.
One of the strategic priorities listed to provide action for SO 2.3 is ‘An engagement agenda that addresses pressing issues affecting primarily South African society’. Therefore, this action places CE at a center in addressing SO 2.3. DUT through its faculties has taken proactive approaches in networking and partnering with industry and community. The aim is to be an agent of change that brings industry, government agencies and NGOs together to strengthen and empower communities.
The purpose of DCE Cluster is to create awareness, inculcate interest and voluntary participation from all parties including university staff, local as well as international community. It is to create an effective, meaningful and sustainable community engagement through socio-economic programmes, education, health, IT, environment and cultural activities/projects towards the development of society.
- To promote the concept and practice of university community engagement.
- To plan, promote and assist university-community engagement activities, projects and programs involving faculties of the university.
- To encourage university-community engagement projects in line with the SAHES agenda.
- To organise capacity building programs on university-community engagement.
- To nurture an environment that is conducive for community engagement to take place and to flourish.
- To disseminate and share experiences of good practices in community engagement.
- To promote scholarly aspect and knowledge transfer into CE activities.
- To capitalise on indigenous knowledge to ensure all community projects must have mutual benefits.
- To raise the socio-economic status of poor communities through CE projects.
- To encourage projects that feature environmental sustainability.
DCE Cluster carries a coordinating and facilitation functions to assist the office of the DVC-RIE at DUT and undertakes the following activities as a strategy to achieve the objectives:
- To organise workshops on awareness of the concept and direction of university-community engagement programme and to attract staff, students and alumni who wish to engage in the programme.
- Provide a standard operating procedure (SOP) as a guideline in approving the application for DUTs university-community engagement projects.
- Evaluate new applications for DUT’s university-community engagement projects and provide recommendations to the DUT’s higher authority for their decision.
- Monitor and evaluate the progress of all DUT’s university-community engagement projects that have been approved and make recommendations to DUT’s higher authority for their decision.
- Provide a database for all DUT’s university-community engagement projects undertaken by DUT staff whether it is sponsored by DUT or other parties.
- To jointly organise University-Community Engagement Conference (UCEC) with members of the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum (SAHECEF).