Monday, 02 March 2009

New Centre to strengthen University ties to industry and wider community

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In a bid to strengthen CPUT’s partnerships with industry, private organisations and the community, the institution has set up the Centre for Community Engagement and Work Integrated Learning.

The Centre, which is based at the Bellville campus, will incorporate two units that are already functioning at the institution.

The Service Learning Unit, which drives the integration of community engagement with teaching, learning and research, and the Co-operative Education Unit, which is responsible for nurturing partnerships that result in students’ experiential training and graduate recruitment opportunities in industry.

The Centre will serve as a link between the university and external community engagement partners. It will also be a clearing house and a central point that will provide evidence-based information for the purpose of institutional and national quality audits.

Heading up this new centre, is Dr Joyce Nduna, the former Director of Community Engagement at Rhodes University .

Dr Nduna is however no stranger to CPUT. She was the institution’s former Head of Community Engagement and Service Learning and has been instrumental in providing opportunities for students to interact with communities.

Dr Nduna said that the move to create the centre is in line with CPUT’s strategic plan which documents Community Engagement as one of its core functions.

”This new centre has been created to ensure that community engagement is implemented according to the CPUT’s community engagement policy which classifies service learning, co-operative education, volunteerism and outreach, as all forms of community engagement” said Dr Nduna.

“The creation of the Centre is also responsive to the 1991 Education White Paper on the Transformation of Higher Education which calls for all higher education institutions in South Africa to demonstrate greater responsibility and commitment to the socio-economic development of communities” she said.

In response to this call, a large number of South African higher education institutions have set up similar centres.

The national call for community engagement in higher education also corresponds with international practices which promote civic engagement in higher education. Such practices include the Talloires Network which is an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education.

While Service Learning and Co-operative Education are course-based and involve credit-bearing educational programmes that provide opportunities for students to interact with communities and businesses, there is a need for the co-ordination of non-credit bearing community projects that are initiated on a voluntary basis. Consequently, plans are in place to set up a third unit in 2010.

This third unit, which will be called the Civic Engagement Unit, will work closely with Student Development Officers and student societies and clubs.

“We would like to create a home for these community projects in order to develop a sense of civic responsibility amongst students and ensure that CPUT produces well rounded graduates who are prepared for real life situations”, she said.

Dr Nduna said that other plans for this year include the establishment of a Community Engagement Committee of Senate. She is positive that all the programmes driven by the centre will have a positive impact on students as well as the community.

More information Talloires Network can be obtained from http://www.tufts.edu/talloiresnetwork.

By Candes Keating

Photo: (left to right) Jacqui Scheepers, Acting Manager: Service Learning; Dr. Joyce Nduna, Director: Community Engagement and Work Integrated Learning; Fundiswa Nofemela: Acting Manager: Co-operative Education

Written by CPUT News

Email: news@cput.ac.za