Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
THE Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Professor Jonathan Moyo, has rejected a request by polytechnics to be transformed into universities, saying there was a danger of lowering the country’s education standards.
The Minister said polytechnics could offer undergraduate degrees, but offering masters degrees or PhDs was out of the question.
He said an institution does not have to be a university to award an undergraduate degree.
“We were looking at this issue for the better part of this week as we’re drafting the new Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology
Development Bill. We got stuck when we started focusing on the tertiary side of the transformation in general, in particular the polytechnics.
“We were given some representation that the polytechnics prepared sometime in February this year. In those representations the polytechnics are saying as far as they are concerned they would like to transform into degree awarding institutions so as to become universities and they’re proposing something they call the polytechnic universities,” said Prof Moyo.
The Minister said this while officiating at the Bulawayo Polytechnic where 1 553 students graduated after completing diplomas in various disciplines.
Prof Moyo said there was a difference between polytechnics as tertiary institutions and universities as institutions of higher learning.
“We’ve never heard of polytechnic universities in this civilised world. Our view is different from that and it’s important for all of us to understand that polytechnics will not be transformed into universities. It’s out of the question,” he said.
“We expect polytechnics to develop and train technologists if they are to transform. The only degree that they can offer is an undergraduate degree. We can’t see polytechnics awarding Masters Degrees or PhDs. We were surprised when polytechnics said they want to become universities when they know that the average lecturer in their institutions doesn’t have a Master’s Degree in the relevant field.”
Prof Moyo said it was important for polytechnics to ask themselves what they need to do for them to be able to train students at higher levels, otherwise they would lower the country’s education standards.
“The artisans should be trained by our industrial training centres and we’re reviewing the policy to ensure that each of our 10 provinces has at least three industrial training centres to focus on the development and training of artisans.
“If this is the shared understanding and the meaning of the transformation then of course polytechnics should become degree awarding institutions. You don’t have to be a university to award an undergraduate degree,” said Prof Moyo.
Universities, he added, must by right produce scientists while polytechnics produce technologists who then apply technological solutions to real problems.
He expressed disappointment that the Bulawayo polytechnic graduating class had only 13 percent female students in the STEM disciplines.
“This is contrary to the trend which is beginning to take root elsewhere, where more female students are taking these subjects. There seems to be a challenge here with the STEM disciplines and I hope this is a matter that the principal and staff will address.
“Something needs to happen, in the case of Bulawayo Polytechnic it would be good to observe that there is this important backdrop of offering the Bachelor of Technology Degree. The experience that this institution has acquired in offering these programmes has important lessons in the ministry to instruct the ongoing exercise to transform the country’s polytechnics into degree awarding institutions,” said Prof Moyo.
He said the polytechnic first opened its doors to technical and vocational education and training programmes in 1927.
“This is a vibrant institution which offers various programmes, including the Bachelor of Technology Degree programme under the University of Science and Technology (Nust), which, I’m told has to date graduated over 100 students.
“I took note of what the principal said that they have been offering these degrees, which is the opposite of awarding them. As we do that, we believe that what is important for polytechnics is to now start addressing the question of what needs to be done to transform into a degree awarding institution,” said Prof Moyo.
The graduation ceremony was also attended by the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, Cde Nomthandazo Moyo, officials from Bulawayo Polytechnic, other tertiary institutions and heads of schools. — @pamelashumba1