From left: UKZN’s Professor Murthi Maistry; the
CHE’s Professor Narend Baijnath and Dr Rubby

The newly appointed CEO of the Council on Higher Education (CHE), Professor Narend Baijnath, delivered a keynote address at UKZN’s 9th annual Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference, hosted from 21 to 23 September, 2015 at the Elangeni Conference Centre.

Titled “Policy and Higher Education Development for 21st Century Learning”, Baijnath’s presentation focussed on improving the quality of teaching and learning and Higher Education in South Africa.

Baijnath explored the various ‘push factors’ affecting academia, which included increasing numbers of students and planning-led expansion, which are straining resources and infrastructure and ‘placing tremendous pressure on practitioners within universities as well as within leadership,’ said Baijnath.

He said unprecedented regulation and demands for compliance, reporting and performance management initiatives were aimed to regularise and enhance governance within our institutions. ‘Those glory days of being an academic, being left to your own devices, doing your own thing, at your own pace, coming and going as you please – those days are well gone.’

He said the rationale behind this was an impetus for greater accountability and extraction of greater value from the ‘investments that are made from the public purse’.

Baijnath said universities should prepare students for the digital world, referencing the huge advancements that have been made in the technological world.

He said ‘pull factors’ include technological advances in applications for teaching and learning coupled with expanded national broadband infrastructure and the ‘declining costs of devices’ have led to a ‘conjucture of possibilities hitherto unimagined.’

He cautioned that there may be skepticism on the side of employers on whether universities are equipping graduates for the changing world of work.

He concluded that advances need to be made along the following fronts:

  • Institutional strategy, infrastructure and a deliberate development trajectory;
  • Equipping students with access and winning them over; and
  • Winning over our staff and creating an enabling environment.

As the newly appointed CEO of the CHE, Baijnath said the CHE’s primary focus was to improve the quality of Higher Education in South Africa.

Baijnath commended Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, for hosting the ‘highly regarded conference’. He thanked UKZN’s Professor Michael Samuel and Dr Rubby Dhunpath for extending him an invitation to present at the conference.

Hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office, the three-day conference explored issues surrounding Higher Education policy implementation. The conference explored the theme: “Re-imagining higher education policy implementation: can policy learn from practice? Complexities, challenges and possibilities.’’

– Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer