21st century tertiary design education in post-apartheid South Africa : a question of quality

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The dissertation explores the question of; what drives excellence in tertiary design education in 21st Century post-Apartheid South Africa? Is it what the state does in terms of policy and regulation or is it what the higher educational providers do in terms of curriculum and methodology that creates excellence? In the first part the dissertation traces the development of higher education policy in South Africa following the political changes from Apartheid to Democracy after 1994. It explores the development of a regulatory framework for higher education provision in post-Apartheid South Africa, due to the disparate levels of quality higher education developed under the Apartheid system for different racial groups and also the proliferation of poor quality private higher education during the first decade of democracy. It follow s the view that while the state set the regulatory control for higher education a n d bench marked educational excellence against public institutions, the realisation that market demands for access to quality higher education would require private education provision to form part of the institutional mix was soon reached. In the second part of the dissertation a case study of a newly established private higher education provider is developed. Created within the new regulatory framework for higher education in South Africa, FEDISA (Future Excellence Design Institute of South Africa) of which this author is the academic director, endeavours to show that private providers of higher education can, when pursuing excellence, become viable partners to the stat e in education provision and may even surpass the state institutions, now burdened with massification, in terms of quality education provision. The study goes on to develop an understanding of how changes in the economic markets have created change demand within design. It then considers the four tenets on which FEDISA's programme for achieving excellence is based in order to comply academically with the highest quality of 21st Century design education. This is as much in answer to the requirements of the new regulatory framework as to the institution's own analysis of what the market now wants. These tenets include the concept of what a curriculum is, drawing on Stenhouse and Smith's views of the curriculum as 'a blueprint for action'. Next, the importance of integrating the component elements of the design curriculum by drawing parallels between the 'collection type and integrated curriculum' theory of Bernstein is considered. In the third instance, an analysis of 'Knowing, Acting and Being', after the curriculum theory of Barnett and Coates is developed through the addition of a liberal arts component to the design curriculum. Special focus is afforded the importance of 'Being' development of design students in 21st Century design education. Finally, Brookfield's notion of becoming a critically reflective practitioner and how the concept of critical reflection has found its place in the 21st Century design classroom through the use of the 'tools of critical reflection' is brought into focus. The dissertation concludes that while the shift in the design markets from craft through mass production to an understanding of ethical considerations in new millennium design dictates what kind of design professionals should now be educated and that this awareness may be achieved through the refocusing of inherently simple means inside the design classroom of the 21st Century, excellence in tertiary design education, while primarily based on what happens inside our design institutions, goes hand in hand with compliance to the demands of state regulation in order to ensure the viability of our tertiary institutions.

Includes bibliographical references.