Are Universities still where thinkers are produced? MUT faculty dean asks

Professor Roger Coopoosamy

One of the reasons for the success of the Focus Conference over the last nine years has been the support the organisers receive from the University Management and staff of all levels. In total, 30 papers were delivered by the University’s staff members. The MUT presentations were very varied; technology was a common theme in at least seven MUT presentations. The strength of their contribution is more than the 30 papers. These papers were a collaboration of two, or more individuals. Professor Roger Coopoosamy, the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and Pradesh Ramdeyal, a Lecturer in the Department of Information Communication and Technology, presented more than twice. They had a collaboration in one of their papers.

In his first paper, Professor Coopoosamy highlighted the shortcomings of university education. In a paper that he co-wrote with Dr Karishma Singh, a member of his faculty, Professor Coopoosamy posed a question: Are universities adequate thinking grounds? He went on to show that there are so many shortfalls in the higher education sector, and these are mainly caused by poor decision making. “Historically, universities served the purpose of enhancing knowledge by developing problem-solving individuals for the betterment of societal, provincial, national, and global needs,” Professor Coopoosamy said. But this has changed; university graduates are no longer thinkers, philosophers who offer solutions to problems, Professor Coopoosamy argued, and illustrated his point. “Although there are enrolment targets being determined and conveyed, the lowered standards and lowered expectations of the secondary education system are now being passed on to the tertiary education sector. Speaking loudly and proudly about increased pass rates and higher than ever numbers of distinctions among the secondary education levels is all well and good, but one should look at the compromised quality of education that secondary educational institutions churn out instead,” Professor Coopoosamy said. He continued that in “a race to achieve those flashy targets, quality education, sound thinkers and innovative minds have fallen by the wayside”. Furthermore, he said, limited infrastructure at historically disadvantaged institutions, at both traditional universities and universities of technology, posed even more pressure to provide quality tertiary education to try and bridge this gap. Professor Coopoosamy added that some experts argue that traditional universities are now also incorporating technological content into their curricula, “crossing the once distinctive barrier between traditional universities and universities of technology”.

Professor Coopoosamy also lamented the poor decisions that are taken by students, and said such decisions are not associated with future thinkers. He said South African university students use their NSFAS funds for their personal satisfaction, and ignore the core education necessities that the financial support is meant for. Professor Coopoosamy’s presentation was hailed by the delegates as “thought-provoking”.