The Southern African Regional Universities Association, SARUA, has launched a network to strengthen curriculum development across the region. Its first project is the development of a curriculum for a masters degree in climate change.
The SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network will link universities with external stakeholders and individuals to strengthen curricula across the 15 member countries of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.
SARUA, a vice-chancellors' body that has 24 member universities and aims to promote and increase higher education training and research, launched the network at its first leadership dialogue for 2015, held from 8-9 June in Stellenbosch near Cape Town.
Funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, the first project involves a masters curriculum and course materials in climate change and sustainable development. The courseware will be developed from 2015 to 2017.
The need for climate change development was first discussed in 2010 at a vice-chancellors’ meeting held in Mauritius. SARUA went on to design a programme to build university capacity in the field of climate change in Southern Africa.
A “Climate Change Counts” mapping study was conducted for SARUA by Higher Education Management Africa, or HEMA, a specialist higher education practice, and a ‘Knowledge Co-Production Framework’ was produced.
The study was the result of 18 months of research through workshops held in 12 of the 15 member countries of SADC to understand climate change knowledge gaps and how universities were responding to them.
“In all predictions of the world’s regions being affected by climate change, Africa and Southern Africa are at the top,” Botha Kruger, a project manager for HEMA, told University World News.
The programme is about strengthening universities to produce science and scientific outputs that will tackle climate change, he added.
According to Kruger, the mapping study helped to understand how universities in the region were responding to climate change, what countries needed and what policies governments were working on.
The masters curriculum is being developed by institutions in five countries under a University Delivery Consortium. They are the Open University of Tanzania, Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, Rhodes University in South Africa, Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, the University of Mauritius and the University of Namibia.
The SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network is open to participation by universities in the SADC region interested in customising course materials for a masters in climate change, as well as government, non-profit and private sector stakeholders, researchers and curriculum design experts.
Kruger said it was hoped that the initiative would forge collaboration in new and innovative ways of delivering curriculum development. The network would be guided by regional climate change and development concerns, and policy and research in SADC.
The curriculum would provide room for customisation and by February 2017 training would be offered to universities that wanted to add their own emphasis to the masters course.
The curriculum will be open access and institutions can contribute electives to the programme. Universities are expected to start teaching the masters in 2018 and 2019.
“We hope to have graduates who can walk out of this programme well informed about the region, and who can help to inform policy and tackle climate change,” Kruger said.
Past SARUA studies have shown that there is a shortage of doctoral graduates and supervisors in the region, with South Africa accounting for 89% of PhDs. Also, little research coming out of Southern African is being published.
Kruger said it was hoped that the end result would be a network of universities that develop curricula innovatively.
After the SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network, there are plans by SARUA to establish other networks, for instance a capacity building network and an institutional development network – but fundraising had to be undertaken first, Kruger said.
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