21 January 2013

Namibia: Polytechnic Prepares for Transition to University

THE Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) is looking at phasing out diploma and certificate courses within the next five years as it prepares to transform into Namibia's University of Science and Technology.

Polytechnic of Namibia Rector Tjama Tjivikua made the announcement at the tertiary institution's 2013 commencement on Friday.

The Ministry of Education granted the PoN university status in December after a wait of more than two years.

"The future for higher education in Namibia looks bright. Yes, we are becoming a university of science and technology, however, the intriguing question is what does that mean for the Polytechnic?" the chairperson of the PoN Council, Niilo Taapopi, asked on Friday.

Taapopi added that it would be necessary to develop a transformation plan for the PoN.

In his commencement speech, Tjivikua said Cabinet had directed the Ministry of Education to rename PoN as a university, but with the condition that it continue offering certificate and diploma courses for up to five years.

Tjivikua said university status would immediately enhance the reputation and status of the institution nationally and globally, as well as increase public respect and interest in the institution.

He added that the status change would also provide students with a greater choice in higher education, and a national environment in which they will not be discriminated against in respect of scholarships, loans, grants and qualifications.

The theme for the PoN 2013 academic year is 'Building Sustainable Futures', which Tjivikua said is appropriate for "our transformation to develop fully, comprehensively, consciously and sustainably".

Tjivikua said that as a university of science and technology, the institution will work towards focusing on applied research, modern infrastructure, community engagement, internationalisation and benchmarking, as well as to develop and embrace new technologies and crafts.

The newly proclaimed university of science and technology will join the University of Namibia (Unam) in concentrating on post-graduate study and specifically doctoral study.

Cabinet late last year directed Unam to limit any further expansion into certificate and diploma courses. Instead, the Ministry of Education was instructed to support Unam "in concentrating on post-graduate study and specifically doctoral study".

The directives follow a review of higher education in Namibia.

The Cabinet also instructed the ministry to spearhead the establishment of a high-level inter-ministerial committee, comprising the ministries of Education, Finance, Trade and Industry, Labour and Social Welfare, Home Affairs and Immigration, Works and Transport, Information and Communication Technology and the National Planning Commission (NPC) to help with higher education reform.

The Education Ministry must also see to it that representatives from the private sector are invited to meetings of the committee to discuss the private sector's skills needs.

Cabinet also directed the Education Ministry to meet with leaders of higher education institutions to discuss the review report "and charter the way forward".

The Ministry of Education must also strengthen higher education human resources expertise in the ministry as well as the Namibia Qualifications Authority.

It must further ensure that measures are put in place to encourage research by higher education institutions and to strengthen research as a national priority.

Also on the cards are two more universities within the next ten years to accommodate the increasing number of school leavers.

Cabinet also wants more student accommodation, libraries and laboratories.

The National Council for Higher Education was instructed to develop a comprehensive academic planning framework for higher education institutions in Namibia.

This framework should include a system of institutional knowledge priority areas and a knowledge classification system.

It must also include a higher education management information system which must support both academic and enrolment planning.

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