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CHE > Media and Publications > Che Events Presentations > Establishing baseline programme intelligence: Programme review at Tshwane University of Technology
Dhaya Naidoo
September, 2005

Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) was created through the merger of three erstwhile technikons in the Northern Gauteng region. The merger resulted in a megauniversity of some 60 000 students in 11 faculties across six campuses in three provinces. Three of the larger campuses are located in the greater Tshwane metropolis and the others in Polokwane, Nelspruit and Witbank. The merger had two significant consequences for the new institution: first, consolidating the programmes from each of the merging partners into a single programme and qualification mix (PQM) and, second, transforming technikons into a university of technology. Both of these consequences continue to present the new university with considerable challenges.

The new institutional types that have resulted from the mergers in the sector have presented South African higher education with significant definitional challenges. University leaders are faced with attempting to define what a ‘comprehensive university’is, or in this case what a ‘university of technology’ is, and in what ways they differ from traditional universities or indeed the technikons of old. Only when there is clear understanding of a new institutional type’s exact purpose and mission can there be any significant direction with regard to the purpose and outcomes of its programmes and qualifications.

Considering that the merger in TUT’s case involved three technikons, and given the quality assurance mechanisms that existed in the technikon sector with regard to programme and qualification design, one might be led to believe that consolidating the programmes would have been relatively simple. However, given the historical contexts of the merging partners, the experience on the ground is that this is not easily accomplished, especially where programmes are duplicated across more than one campus. The issue is complicated by variations in the programme design and learning content and by differences in teaching and learning and assessment practices.

Legacies of the past meant that there was a disproportionate investment in human, financial, infrastructural and intellectual capital by the government at each of the merging partners. Furthermore, the level of student preparedness for higher education varied significantly across each institution’s traditional target student population. Consequently, each institution developed different sets of academic practices in response to its contextual environment.

Thus, given the varied communities of practice prevalent in each of the merging partners, TUT took a conscious decision that the primary aim of the first cycle of programme reviews would be to establish base-line programme intelligence. In this way, a relatively objective and value-free mechanism for consolidating programmes and developing a new common community of practice, with due regard to contextual conditions, might evolve at the university.

As a result, programme and campus reviews became an extension of the university’s concept of quality and its quality management system. These are an essential feature of quality management at TUT, which began in 2004 after being piloted in two faculties.

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