The Chair of the Higher Education, Science and Technology Portfolio Committee, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, said Sol Plaatje University (SPU) is a model that could be used for future South African universities.
The committee visited SPU as part of its week-long monitoring visit to higher education institutions in the Northern Cape. It assesses readiness for the 2022 academic year. “Sol Plaatje University is a testament to the great potential that South Africa has to achieve breakthrough developments,” Ms Mkhatshwa said. “The country could reach a point where the sector develops suitable, stable and sustainable infrastructure.”
The committee observed the repurposing and redesigning of various government buildings to be used for the infrastructure of the university. This responds to the intentions of the district development model, which promotes cooperation between public institutions. Ms Mkhatshwa said: “This should be reflected in all provinces as we are seeing many government buildings being abandoned which could be repurposed to house TVET. [technical, vocational education and training] and CET [community education and training] colleges.”
The committee made the university aware of the need to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to attract more South African students. He also urged the university to ensure that it serves the community by expanding access, as well as work and learning opportunities to local communities living near the university.
The committee welcomed the fact that SPU has made part of its infrastructure available to the community. In expanding access in the province, Ms Mkhatshwa said the department and stakeholders could consider merging the Vaal University of Technology Upington campus into a satellite SPU campus, rather than closing it.
The committee appreciated the open nature of the institution, as it supports the creation of a university town, where the institution is located within the community. Ms Mkhatshwa added: “It could further enable the creation of an education district, such as the iMbali Education and Innovation District in KwaZulu-Natal, given that as a university, TVET and CET colleges can coexist, share best practices and academic programs.”
The committee urged all stakeholders to continue working together and welcomed the honest opinions of workers, students and the institutional forum on challenges and successes.