Open access, retention and throughput at the Central University of Technology

  • KJ de Beer Central University of Technology, Free State Bloemfontein, South Africa


The most debatable question in higher education today is: Why first `open access' to promote massafication and now `capping' to restrict learner intake? (cf. SA Media Information 2004). Concerning the managing of this difficult and extremely sensitive issue, the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) has come a long way. Its position paper for learner throughput and retention (2003±2006) is testimony to this problem. However, the aim of this article is not to give a summary of the position paper, but rather to delve into contemporary literature and academic development support research outcomes for possible enlightenment. This is possible in the sense that there are no clear-cut answers to be found either in the literature or in the CUT's own documentation as yet. Senate resolutions in this regard are still in the process of being implemented. It was therefore considered to be a wise approach to rather differentiate between open access, retention and throughput. All three concepts are so highly integrated that it is not very clear where the one begins and the other ends. A simple example to motivate this statement is that politicians of the day determine state subsidies for enrolments and outputs. Higher education institutions are proverbially regulated like the water flow from a tap when it comes to government funding, making it very difficult for such institutions to construct their three-year rolling plans according to learner intake, and to balance this with financial planning. Therefore, at this stage, learner support and academic development planning at the CUT is focused on the real academic concerns. Currently, learner service and academic development at the CUT stand within the context of value adding with regard to learners, lecturers, and the process of education. In order to enable members of the academic staff to continue providing quality education, it is important to emphasise personal development that meets the demands of the changing higher education landscape. Learnership programmes based on self-development, together with an adjustment in modes of teaching, are prerequisites for success. In order to complete the quality circle, members of staff should be motivated to compile their own teaching portfolios, where existing and new skills are noted. Such a teaching portfolio can also be used for the evaluation of teaching staff. Another learner support strategy is to allow access for learners who do not meet the minimum requirements for entry into a specific programme, and to have a qualityassured, recognisable foundation certificate with full articulation between and within institutions. The actual structure of the course should be generic regardless of discipline or faculty of study, although the learner's chosen field of study will determine the choice of core and elective offering. The foundation certificate will comprise 120 credits at NQF level 5. As part of learner support and development, learners and staff will also embrace the principles of diversity. Lecturing and supporting staff must assist in this by setting the example in interpersonal relations, especially to enhance learner satisfaction.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 20(1) 2006: 29-43

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eISSN: 1011-3487