Sentiments expressed by industry about WSU engineering students in the workplace regarding technical communication skills has prompted the university to take immediate action.


To this end, WSU has solicited much-needed assistance and expertise from Stellenbosch University and the UK’s Coventry University in a bid to enhance and capacitate the institution’s lecturers with the requisite skills to produce quality, holistic and well-rounded graduates.


“The Knowledge Exchange project takes a holistic view of the engineering education space that seeks to capacitate staff. This should enable student engagement through effective meaning-making practices as aligned to industry needs and support through explicit curriculum mapping and problem-orientated educational initiatives,” said WSU merSETA project manager for academic programme development Ferdie Gerber.


By way of collaboration, WSU, through the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP), seeks to achieve this particular mandate by ensuring that five key deliverable are met, including:

  • Staff and Curriculum development for improving communication skills of engineering students;
  • Staff capacity development towards teaching for the “world of work”;
  • Application of Project and Problem-based learning as a Teaching and Learning Strategy
  • Development of staff capacity to undertake postgraduate supervision
  • Research on Curriculum mapping as a tool for curriculum analysis


Gerber said all the measures envisaged in the programme were aimed at producing graduates that are employable and add value to the workplace.


“In order for us to do this we need to develop curriculum, assessments and methodologies that speak to this. As a university we need to be responsive and take a quality assurance approach to ensuring that we respond to the needs of our students and by virtue, the industry,” he said.


Erina Basson, an 18-year veteran who has been teaching professional communication to engineering students since the establishment of Stellenbosch University’s Language Centre in 2005, couldn’t stress enough the importance of being able to write efficiently.

She said a healthy and productive working relationship with Stellenbosch University’s engineering department has ensured that the competencies entailed in professional communication, which include academic literacy and business communication, are an intrinsic part of the programme’s curriculum.


“It’s critical that engineers should be able to communicate about their work with other engineers, but it’s equally important that they know how to talk to the general public. There’s no victory in coming up with a great discovery or product but you can’t effectively communicate what that product is about,” she said.


Coventry University Associate Head of School-Student Experience for the School of Computing, Electronics and Maths, Dr Farzana Aslam, said the programme would be infinitely beneficial not just for WSU, but for her institution as well.


“My specific role in the initiative will be to lead the curriculum development, staff capacitation and embedded employability. As a University, we’ve carried out research with regards to this issue and have had some of our work endorsed by the House of Lords – a great honour and recognition,” said Aslam.


The programme commenced in June this year and is set to run until June 2018.

By: Thando Cezula

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