Cabinet recently approved the integration of South Africa’s agricultural colleges into the Department of Higher Education and Training, in line with one of the key recommendations from an Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) Consensus Study led by Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship’s (CAS) Professor Frans Swanepoel.
The Consensus Study on agricultural education and training (AET), which concluded in 2017, sought to provide clear policy recommendations to address the significant challenges in the AET system in South Africa. Key issues explored by the Panel included articulation pathways, curriculum relevance, and graduate employment patterns. Drawing on insights from series of commissioned studies and high-level consultations with national and international experts, the 11-person Consensus Study Panel put forward a set of ten clear policy recommendations.
The integration of the agricultural colleges into the Department of Higher Education and Training is a significant step towards addressing the challenges in South African AET. The Consensus Study Panel identified the lack of integration as a critical blockage in the skills development pipeline that had many far-reaching implications, including limiting access to scholarship funding for students in the colleges. Professor Frans Swanepoel, Consensus Panel Chair, noted that “For South Africa to achieve its envisaged significant growth in enrolments and high-quality graduates in agricultural related fields it is critical to ensure the optimal functioning of the agricultural colleges. The decision by Cabinet opens up the opportunity to align the different AET educational pathways and address some of the most persistent challenges we have been facing”.
The Panel Chair, Professor Frans Swanepoel, is a leading expert in agricultural transformation in Africa, and is the Co-Director of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security. Dr Fanie Terblanché, an academic at the UP Department Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, served a member of the panel of experts. Dr Melody Mentz-Coetzee, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, supported the panel as the appointed senior researcher.
|Professor Frans Swanepoel
||Dr Melody Mentz-Coetzee
Moving forward, a task team will be appointed to oversee the implementation of the college’s integration. Their responsibilities are also likely to include considering the implications and implementation of several other recommendations from the report, including: a detailed study on articulation pathways and curriculum innovation; a pilot project to test the feasibility of an adapted land grant model to strengthen the linkages between agricultural education, research and extension; innovative funding models to incentivise collaboration, and a monitoring, evaluation and learning framework.