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How Technology Can Support Vision 2030 at The University of Cape Town

  • 4 Min Read

As part of our series, ‘Harnessing Digitisation to Unlock Student Success in South Africa’, we spoke to leading institutions across South Africa to understand how digitisation vision for the future, and how they plan to realise these ambitions.


The University of Cape Town (UCT) was established in 1829 as the South African College. It was granted full university status in 1918, making it the oldest university in South Africa. Today, the research-intensive university is home to more than 30,000 students and almost 5,000 staff.

Sukaina Walji, Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at UCT, spoke to us about the university’s Vision 2030 and its priorities for staff and students.

What are the key pillars of UCT’s Vision 2030?

Vision 2030 encapsulates UCT’s transformative purpose, to ‘unleash human potential to create a fair and just society’. The three pillars at the heart of Vision 2030 are excellence, transformation and sustainability.

This embodies where we want to be as an institution, and engaging more with digital technologies is key to realising our ambitions. Our students need to be prepared for the tools that they will encounter in the workplace. And from a teaching perspective, technology is also helping our teaching staff to become more innovative and flexible in their work.

The key is not to do digital transformation for the sake of it, but to ‘bring more of the world in through digital’.

How did the changes made during Covid-19 impact this vision?

We’re a traditional campus-based university, so it was a shock when we had to move to fully remote learning. It led to a re-examination of the support we had in place, for both students and staff, and how we could maintain standards of teaching and learning.

A number of our students didn’t have sufficient infrastructure, for example, so we prioritised low-tech content to ensure they could access it. Huge video files simply wouldn’t have worked.

Essentially, we made the best of what we had initially, and kept making small improvements along the way. This included carrying out surveys among staff to understand where they needed help.

We also had to consider the mental health of our students and staff, as well as changes to funding models and curriculums. It was about wraparound care as much as it was about content design.

Some of the lessons learnt during that time, around how students engage and what resonates the most, have helped us as we move towards our vision.

How do you see teaching and learning evolving?

Despite the complexities of moving fully online, teachers did enjoy the flexibility and freedom it offered. It feels a lot more natural now to have guest lecturers, for example, and it’s much less of an event to have people teaching from different locations.

When lectures are on-demand and readily available online, students can also catch up with any missed sessions much more easily. Maybe this will herald a release from the tyranny of the timetable.

Engagement is another area of focus for us and is key to improving outcomes for students. We’re beginning to identify where students aren’t engaging with course content, and we’re looking at how we can improve our early warning and intervention systems. This is being done at the departmental and course levels, but the next stage is to monitor this on a much larger scale.

Finally, we want staff to have more autonomy over how they teach. There doesn’t need to be one signature pedagogy. We want to empower our staff and departments to be as innovative as they want to be in the design of their courses.

What will qualifications look like in the future?

The job of a university is to build knowledge, not deliver skills training. But it’s still vital for students to graduate with a broader skills base so they are more prepared for the modern workplace. We currently have specific degrees that are awarded through accredited bodies, such as accountancy, etc., but we are exploring more cross-departmental projects and modules to encourage wider learning and collaboration among students.

Data will also inform how we make changes in the future, as long as it is used ethically. There are huge opportunities to use data analytics to improve student success rates, responding more quickly to issues, for example, or providing students with dashboards so they can monitor their own success. For staff and management, it opens up opportunities to identify patterns and act upon them—such as identifying pass rates for individual courses over a five-year period and analysing what may have caused any fluctuations.

Finally, while teaching is evolving, methods of assessment aren’t changing at the same pace. We may start to see this accelerate. With AI becoming more sophisticated, there’s a danger it will be used more and more to produce essays or complete assignments. The sector as a whole needs to look at whether assessments can be more experiential or portfolio based, or whether we can introduce more project-based or gamification-based degrees. This would not only ensure fairness but also bring assessments in line with more contemporary ways of teaching and learning.

This extended interview was conducted as part of the research for our whitepaper, ‘Harnessing Digitisation to Unlock Student Success in South Africa’. Read more from this series on our content hub or download the whitepaper to explore how universities can embrace digitisation to unlock student success.

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Table of Contents

  1. What are the key pillars of UCT’s Vision 2030?
  2. How did the changes made during Covid-19 impact this vision?
  3. How do you see teaching and learning evolving?
  4. What will qualifications look like in the future?