Change the world


Nelson Mandela Univerisity Faculty of Education Dean Dr Muki Moeng outlines the benefits of being a comprehensive university.

Let me start by saying that I am a child of this space: I came to Nelson Mandela University, or the University of Port Elizabeth as it was then, straight from school in Graaff-Reinet because this was the closest university.
Today I hold a doctorate from this university, which is one of only six comprehensive universities in our country. 
I have witnessed changes over the period before, during and after our merger to become what we are today.
Mergers in South Africa have led to three different types of universities: traditional, comprehensive and universities of technology.
The restructuring of higher education through incorporations and mergers have displaced institutions of higher education and positioned them in new organisational homes.
My doctorate on the merger of the-then PE Technikon, Vista University and the University of Port Elizabeth looks into what it means to be the institution today known as Nelson Mandela University. 
The merger was no simple task, as faculties and departments had to move, acquire new knowledge and change their organisational and academic identity. 
Boundaries which once defined them were no longer there, and academics had to give meaning to the values and norms of a comprehensive university.
Mandela’s challenges, in particular, were also cultural, structural and geographic. One of our seven campuses is in George, for example, while the six in Gqeberha are up to 20km apart.
We needed to nurture a human dimension to form a coherent and cohesive organization from these disparate parts.
At the same time, we had to balance the three academic pillars of learning and teaching, research and engagement. 
Major changes
Over this time, I certainly have seen major changes. For example, our ever-developing qualification mix as a comprehensive university enables a matriculant who did not get a bachelor pass in Grade 12 to leave with a degree. 
Many school leavers who have not qualified for access to a traditional university can enroll at Mandela University in one course – and then may push the doors of learning wide open.
In the Faculty of Engineering, for example, students who started with a higher certificate have advanced up to PhD.
(And our recognised, accredited programmes are peer reviewed nationally so there are no back-door qualifications here.)
It can be done and that is part of the beauty of a comprehensive university: if offers opportunity. 
A person from an ordinary upbringing can see themselves starting and finishing in a very different place.
Impact on society
We really want to offer qualifications that have impact in society. 
Shop stewards who want to improve their skills in how to negotiate, for example, may benefit from a postgraduate diploma in labour relations.
We're not only looking at the employer or CEO but also the workers, and how we can support them to get the qualifications they need to create a socially just society.
Can you imagine if everyone had their own space where they can work to improve their career, whether it is in plumbing, electrical engineering, or whatever?
Transforming education
In the Faculty of Education, we know what a critical role teachers play in the transformation of education.
They can best do this when they are lifelong learners themselves.
After all, if they studied 20 years ago, are they now equipped for the post-pandemic world of 4IR and the global turmoil of 2023? 
Sometimes it's difficult to convince teachers of the value of further study. 
However, my argument is that you need to be able to reflect on your practice, and then be an agent of change, so that you can disrupt the status quo in front of you. 
A postgraduate qualification will allow teachers to do that, whether it is a research-oriented BA Honours, or a more vocational postgraduate diploma that tackles a project in the classroom.
The disruptions of COVID-19 also showed us that our students do not always necessarily need to be here on campus, and this is encouraging for postgraduate students who are often older and may already have a career and a family.
Many of our Masters and PhD students study mostly online, and there are international students who only travel when they come here to graduate. 
Living our value of ubuntu 
However, the personal touch, and having one-on-one sessions with your supervisor, face to face, just makes such a difference.
I’ve seen how today we really take care of students at Nelson Mandela University. 
When you are here, you are not just a student number, you are a person, because we live the value of ubuntu.
We cannot say our motto is “change the world” and only look at a number because it is the person behind that number who needs to change the world.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777