Edu State is a SABC Digital News feature that focusses on the state of education in South Africa. In this episode, TUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Tinyiko Maluleke reflects on the year 2022.
The Tshwane University of Technology is among the top 15 science, technology, and engineering universities in South Africa. This is according to the latest Times Higher Education rankings. The global rankings provide a list of top-performing universities across the world with a focus on research. The evaluation of the universities takes into account factors including teaching, research, citations, industrial income, and global outlook.
Professor Maluleke says although the institution has been a reluctant participant in the rankings, he is pleased with the performance.
“In the academic world, the golden standard is peer reviews, so these rankings are based on peer reviews. In other words, the people who really understand the business in which you are, who therefore deploy their knowledge of your industry to work out how you compare to institutions similar to you, in your country but most importantly in the world. In that sense, rankings are important and what they say becomes important. Of course, these international rankings are not the be-all and end-all of what universities exist for. We exist as universities for more mundane reasons to produce skills, to produce an educated citizenry. But we can’t ignore the rankings in so far that they are the opinions of our peers about what they think about the quality of our research, the quality of our teaching and learning, and the quality of our teaching of particular subjects.”
Skills SA economy needs
South Africa has a history of structural unemployment, a mismatch between the skills the economy needs and those that the labour force possesses. The unemployment rate currently stands at 33.9% with a youth unemployment rate of 46.5%.
According to Professor Maluleke, TUT gives its students the tools they need to close the skills gap in the labour market.
“I think it has to sink in that in terms of Times Higher Education, there are 15 top universities in this country which are producing the kind of skills that the economy needs, that is skills in engineering, in physical sciences, in ICT and related. TUT is one of those 15 and TUT is the only university of technology among those 15. What does that say? It means TUT is doing something correctly in matching what the economy and the skills needed by the job market. We are already producing in the relevant areas and we call ourselves a university that makes knowledge work and by that, we mean that we are deliberate in producing graduates who are ready for the future of work.”
Impact of coronavirus on learning and teaching
The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in disruptions in teaching and learning with universities having to halt contact classes. The pandemic has so far claimed more than 100 000 lives in South Africa. However, in any crisis, there are opportunities.
“The key lessons that we learnt is that the hybrid mode of delivery is probably going to be with us for a long time if not for the foreseeable future, in other words, no university in the world will continue to teach in one mode only. That is, you can’t teach by contact only, obviously, because COVID-19 made it impossible for there to be contact, not only between students and their lecturers but also between students and students. So, the contact mode of teaching on its own will no longer suffice, what you see universities doing all over the world, TUT included is to develop dynamic modes of teaching which change from time to time with mixed, multi-modal forms of teaching where you have podcasting, online teaching which is interactive, even the use of social media which we are able to create groups, classes meet on social media. We also learnt about inequality, because once we had to go online it became clear which students would not be able to have data, sometimes it is not even because they don’t have data after the university has provided data, if you come from a village, where the network is very poor, may have enough data as you wish but you are not going to connect, so we also got exposed in that way as a country. “
Excess demand for student funding
Briefing stakeholders in the higher education sector in October, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande said that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) continues to have shortfalls as a result of the high demand for student funding. He added that despite the challenges, NSFAS funding increased from R5.9 billion in 2014 to R49 billion in 2022.
“TUT is probably the largest consumer of NSFAS funds in the country. I doubt there is a university that takes as big a portion of NSFAS funds as TUT. The last time I checked, up to 60% of our students are NSFAS funded. That means we are thankful to both government and NSFAS and also worry as an institution because that is how dependent our students are on funding. Fortunately, NSFAS over the years, especially since 2016, has been giving more and more money to students.”
2022 highlights and setbacks
South Africans celebrated in July as the women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, clinched the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations champions title. Among the stars in the winning team were some former TUT students. Professor Maluleke also shares some 2022 highlights.
“The Banyana Banyana team which won the Africa Cup had four TUT players including the goal scorer, the winning goal was scored by a former TUT player. It is also important to note that, in the Commonwealth Games that were in England there was a TUT student who won gold in squash, he is a Zambian, that also speaks to the number of international students that we have and of course, we won the varsity cup, our male team won the varsity cup. The final thing I want to say as a highlight, there is a solar car that TUT has been building since 2014; we have called that solar car, the Sun Chaser. That is an award-winning solar car.”
10 months in office
Professor Maluleke took up his position as TUT Vice-Chancellor in February. He has vast experience in higher education, two decades of which have been in senior management.
He says he is honoured to serve his country in this manner.
“Well, I have been in higher education for a long time. I served as Deputy-Vice Chancellor, I have served as Dean, Executive Director for Research, and Deputy Registrar, and I have been in university management for some time. I think it is a natural development that if one has been making a contribution at that level, it is more likely to end up as a Vice-Chancellor than not. It is a humbling position to be a Vice Chancellor, it is really a position of humility and service to one’s country but also of giving back to a generation of young South Africans in a manner that very few South Africans have an opportunity to. Every time I officiate a graduation (ceremony) and I take a look at all those young people, with the stars in their eyes, looking forward to new careers having just graduated, it gives me a lot of delight and pleasure to be making a contribution in that regard.”
Below is the full interview with Professor Maluleke: