Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town)

After a delicious traditional South African home-cooked meal at Mzansi restaurant,

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the in-home business of Nomonde Siyaka located in the nearby township of Langa, we conclude our two week sojourn with a site visit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Our host Dr. Rene Pellissier, director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, and her colleague Dr. Dina Burger demystify some of the general stigma associated with the technikon university model of the past, and how their institution specifically is a shaping what a technical university can be in the future.

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CPUT is the largest Western Cape residential university, is in collaborative partnerships with several other institutions in order to leverage resources and research, enrolls 35,000+ students across five campuses, and is the resulting product of two technical universities — Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon–in 2005.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

We made our last university visit to Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Unlike our visits to the other traditional universities, CPUT focuses more on applied sciences and technology to encourage career building and entrepreneurship. We learned that CPUT is the largest of the four Western Cape universities and, the location we visited, is a part of 1 of 5 campuses. CPUT also formed as a merger from two technikons. Technikons provided vocational education in South Africa. We learned that there is an unfortunate stigma with technikons in South African society in that they were not really considered a university. Some of the presenters from CPUT touched on this issue. Today, South African students are not as interested in the technical careers. As a result, technology universities such as CPUT, with their focus on intense research, have helped offset this stigma.

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During our visit we got to see many of the labs and facilities used by the students. We saw CPUT’s food technology department, which includes cheese machines and a beer brewery. In addition to viewing the food machines, we viewed many of the greenhouses and other vegetation experiments within the premises. We were surprised by the amount of research and the multi-disciplinary focus within the university. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway was seeing the facilities where the students conducted much of their work. We were able to get a sense of how they can apply these practical skills into a career.

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We also learned that due to the #feesmustfall student protests, technical universities such as CPUT were highly impacted. These technical universities saw decreased funding from the government and also decreased student enrollment. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see where technical universities like CPU fall in transformational South African higher educational landscape.

–Reuben Kapp, master’s student