The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) International Education and Partnerships (IEP) Directorate hosted a one-day online workshop titled: International Joint Degrees, via Zoom on Tuesday, 9 March 2021.
The workshop was facilitated by Dr Samia Chasi, Strategic Advisor to the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA). She is a practitioner-scholar in higher education internationalisation, with more than 20 years of experience in this field.
Also forming an integral part of the online workshop was DUT’s Dr Lavern Samuels, DUT IEP Director and Divinia Jithoo, a Specialist: International Education, International Office.
The workshop included a brief overview of the Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa in relation to joint degrees, an introduction to the concept joint degrees, its value and relevance in the current South African higher education sector, and the Systems and processes required to introduce joint degrees at DUT.
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 Samuels welcomed all attendees to the workshop and hoped by the end of it all, those who were in attendance would be in a better place to actually embark on discussions around joint degrees. “You will find that whilst we use the term loosely termed joint degrees, there are many forms of this collaborative body implications that we can now embark on,” he said.
Addressing the attendees, Dr Chasi also stressed: “The idea of the workshop is to really make it a DUT specific as we can and not necessarily all we talk about the broad contexts of these degrees, but really see very specifically what is it that DUT wants to achieve in this area and how can this workshop facilitate it,” she said.
She reviewed the academic terminologies such as co-badged qualifications, the 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.
“There are a number of practical things I would like us to explore, starting with academic requirements, yes, we just heard that Joint Degrees at first foremost an academic endeavour but that does not mean it can happen without the involvement of all the other units at the university that essentially deals with the awarding of degrees, and support services,” she said.
Adding to the conversation, Jithoo spoke of possible scenarios such as where a student starts with a master’s degree at one institution and it could perhaps be a one-year master and at the other institution offers a two-year master’s degree. “Part of that work that has been done has been recognised towards the awarding of that degree. That is a possible scenario and these kind of questions can come up, we might have to go back and seek further clarification from the department,” she said.
Dr Chasi further emphasised 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.
The way forward for getting this off the ground at DUT was outlined by Dr Samuels.
“We have drafted a DUT Strategic Framework for Internationalisation. This has been externally reviewed by a number of different stakeholders and has also served at RIE EXCO and AEM and updated with their comments. The strategic framework is aligned first and foremost to ENVISION 2030, but also the National Policy Framework (NPF) for Internationalisation in South Africa, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Africa Agenda (2063) and has taken into account policies such as the SADC protocol. At the moment, this is with faculties for reviews, after IEP has asked for it to serve at Faculty Board meetings. We will be following up for this feedback.
After the promulgation of the NPF, DUT IEP drafted a policy guideline for Cross-Broder Qualifications / Programmes. This will go through the same structures for comment and review before it is finalised and will guide the joint degree activities of DUT, to ensure that it is an inclusive and consultative process,” he said.
Dr Samuels added that following the workshop, a summary of the workshop will be provided to all attending participants as well as participants who registered, but were not able to join.
In addition, he added that IEP as the driver of this, will engage pertinent stakeholder departments within DUT as a follow up to this workshop.
These include: Faculties and Departments, Specific Research Centres, The Registrar’s Office, CQPA and Technology Transfer and Innovation.
Dr Samia Chasi is a practitioner-scholar in Higher Education 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.
Pictured: Dr Samia Chasi