The Department’s strategic goals direct its long-term trajectory:
- Be a leading research-intensive Department
- Pursue excellence in teaching and learning
- Be recognised continuously for the quality of graduates delivered
- Strengthen the Department’s national and international profile through the establishment of sound sustainable business and other relationships
- Become financially independent in terms of the growth strategy of the department
The Department aligns itself with the strategic objectives of the University of Pretoria:
- Enhance access and successful student learning
- Strengthen the University’s research and international profile
- Foster and sustain a diverse, inclusive and equitable university community
- Optimise resources and enhance institutional sustainability
- Strengthen the University’s responsiveness and impact in society
After several years of significant growth in undergraduate student numbers, followed by a slump in mining student numbers worldwide, the Department decided to reduce its first-year intake. Its designed capacity is 50 final-year students, and its strategic intent is to have 150 undergraduate (in terms of the current need for mining engineers decreasing worldwide, this might need to be re-addressed in the near future) and 100 postgraduate students by 2025.
This is informed by the current employment trends in the mining industry, which have a direct impact on the number of students who display an interest in pursuing mining engineering as a career. In this regard, the Department needs a paradigm shift in terms of what the future of mining engineering will look like.
The Department’s strategic intent is illustrated in the figure below.
The Department’s student profile is being transformed to more accurately represent the demographics of the country in terms of both race and gender.
Recent innovations in the Mining Engineering curriculum are a manifestation of the University of Pretoria’s commitment to the four key principles that drive the University’s institutional strategy and planning: quality, relevance, diversity and sustainability. The Department’s world-class facilities, accompanied by curriculum innovations that are being undertaken, will continue to play a significant role in ensuring that the University’s vision to be a leading research-intensive university in Africa is realised.
The Murray & Roberts Mining Engineering Leadership Academy
The Department is aware of the challenges its graduates face in the transition from student to manager and leader. This is particularly relevant in the complex, rapidly changing world of cyber-technology, the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. Students who enter the workplace often lack sufficient self-awareness, interpersonal communication skills and the ability to work in multidisciplinary settings and in diverse groups spanning many generations. This led to the establishment of the Mining Engineering Leadership Academy (MELA) in 2009 with the aim of grooming students for the workplace.
The Murray & Roberts Chair in Industry Leadership 4.0 was established in the Department in 2019, with the inception date 1 January 2020. It was subsequently decided to rename the student leadership programme the Murray & Roberts Mining Engineering Leadership Academy (M&R MELA) in recognition of the contribution made by this company.
All final-year Mining Engineering students attend the M&R MELA programme at the start of each year. The programme then extends to the second half of the year, when students are divided into teams of four students each for their Mine Design course. The M&R MELA programme is structured to better prepare students for their careers in the mining industry by creating an awareness of the stewardship of being a Tukkie and a future mining engineering leader. The teams are selected based on psychometric assessments obtained from the DiSC profile (based on determining the personality traits of dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness) and the Myers-Briggs personality profile. In conjunction with academic performance, commodity and biographic profiles, teams should be as diverse as possible.
The M&R MELA concludes in July of each year with a Leadership Week in which students are introduced to the 4.0DTM Leadership Model for Industry 4.0, developed by Dr Johann Uys, a senior lecturer in the Department. The M&R MELA focuses on working in teams, emotional intelligence and conflict management. At the end of the week, the teams embark on an outward-bound experiential and action learning team-building day to tackle challenges similar to those they may experience in the world of work first-hand.
The final phase of the leadership programme incorporates contemporary topics relevant to mine design with specific reference to mine closure design, as well as community awareness and responsibility.
This programme works closely with the Murray & Roberts Chair in Industry Leadership 4.0.
The Department acknowledges that good language skills are essential for its students to succeed, both in their studies and in their careers. English is not the first language of the majority of the students in the Department. Yet, they need to attend classes, read articles and write reports in English. An inadequate grasp of the English language will therefore lead to poor results, no matter how gifted a student is otherwise.
Competency in English is considered a key driver in academic excellence and competitiveness and forms part of the Department’s long-term strategy. Because English is the second language of 90% of its students, an English language intervention programme has been instituted.
This programme runs concurrently with the mining engineering classes from the first to the final year of study, providing students with the opportunity to improve their English skills. Students attend presentations, writing workshops, online programmes and private consultations, which are aimed at helping them improve their writing, reading and speaking skills.
The outcome of this intervention is that students have been empowered to produce well-written dissertations and presentations. In the process, they have also acquired a skill that will be of immense value to them throughout their professional lives.
This programme is managed by an English language instructor, who is supported by three postgraduate English tutors to accommodate all the year groups.
For more information on this programme, or to make an appointment with the English language instructor, contact Isabella Venter at [email protected].
Interactive Immersive Technology
Building on the success of the Virtual Reality Centre in presenting real-world scenarios for immersive experiences by means of virtual reality (VR), the Department recognised the potential of expanding this facility to offer innovative teaching and learning experiences.
One of the initiatives that the Department has launched utilising the facilities of the Virtual Reality Centre is the new blast wall, which provides training in a “practical” environment through the use of VR. This exercise involves projecting the blast wall onto a screen, after which learners will mark grade lines, direction lines and grid lines onto a virtual wall. They will then use VR and augmented reality to design the blast, mark the blast holes and timing sequences, and actually execute the blast.
The Multimedia programme in the Department of Information Science is also collaborating with the Department of Mining Engineering in research related to virtual reality and user interaction.
The Department is one of a few Mining Engineering departments in the world to offer instructionally designed material for all mining-related subjects to enhance the learning experience of students. The Department employs a full-time instructional designer to visually enhance lecture notes.
All Mining Engineering modules are designed in a format where the one-dimensional script is enhanced through the inclusion of high-quality pictures and illustrations that make it possible for students to comprehend the theory without needing to go underground (which even then they would find the content difficult to grasp). Animations are used to show difficult concepts in mining, making them more understandable for the inexperienced mining student, and video material is used to make images come alive.
A databank of mining industry videos has been collected as part-time viewing material for students to enhance their understanding of difficult mining concepts and procedures, including reconstructions of typical mine incidents with 3D animations, incident reconstruction simulations and geology features. These videos have already been introduced in some modules and will further enhance students’ understanding. The videos can also be used to introduce students to basic mining concepts.
A total of 80% of the Department’s modules have been instructionally designed following the ADDIE approach, which incorporates Analysis (what are the outcomes, and where can the content be enriched with media elements for better understanding), Design of the content (applying for copyright when reference is made to journal articles, Development (building the design in an electronic format, creating the links to the media and journal files, and testing all the links), Implementation (student use of the material and feedback) and Evaluation (what worked, what did not work, where is improvement necessary for the next offering).