A critical evaluation of the research experiences of master and doctoral students at Technikon Natal

McLean-Anderson, Gloria (2004-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2004

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: There are indications that the emergence of global trends in the production and dissemination of knowledge is influencing science policies worldwide, and compelling universities and technikons in South Africa to become more market oriented, competitive and entrepreneurial. Some of these trends include new modes of knowledge production, increased financial and academic accountability and distance education. The changing higher education landscape worldwide has implications for South African tertiary institutions. In addition, one of the objectives of the democratic government that took power in 1994 was to transform higher education. The publication of the White Paper on Education in 1997, the establishment of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), and the National Plan for Higher Education in 2001 heralded the beginning of change. Consequently, it became necessary for higher education institutions to deliberate on the future course of their undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and training programmes. In this context, it is important for universities and technikons to understand the needs of their postgraduate students. The overall aim of this study was to identify the perceptions of ex-Technikon Natal (now the Durban Institute of Technology) postgraduate students on their research experiences with regard to supervision, communication, the Technikon generally, availability of resources, finance, time, departments, faculties, research, research methodology, statistics, library and expertise. The particular focus was on postgraduate students registered at the Technikon Natal in 2001, whether or not they had submitted their research proposals. A postal survey was carried out to determine the students' perceptions of their research postgraduate experiences at the then Technikon Natal. The results of the survey indicate that the majority of postgraduate students have a negative perception of the Technikon. Students feel that there are insufficient experienced supervisors available for consultation, leading to unacceptable delays. With regard to communication, students feel that the Technikon does not disseminate enough information on processes and procedures about postgraduate issues. Overall, students in the Health Sciences are more dissatisfied than students in the other faculties. In fact, the postal survey reveals that students in these other faculties are more positive than negative about their postgraduate experiences. However, it is worth pointing out that a large proportion of Science and Engineering students (38%) are undecided on this matter. It is interesting to note that the open-ended comments section at the end of the questionnaire reveals far more negative perceptions than the closed questions. Students are dissatisfied about the lack of modern computer facilities and available funds. They also feel strongly that it takes too long to get a research proposal approved. The majority feels that a postgraduate information kit would assist greatly. Comments about Research Methodology as a subject are particularly negative with regard to statistics, and the course, which they feel is too general. Students do not seem to have any major difficulties with the library services. The Technikon has to put structures in place to improve these negative perceptions and manage the students' needs. Combined with the impact of the merger of the former Technikon Natal and M.L. Sultan Technikon, the effects of which are not yet fully understood, the new Durban Institute of Technology should give serious consideration to the needs of its postgraduate population, especially in the Faculty of Health.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Globale tendense in die produksie en disseminasie van kennis blyk wereldwyd 'n invloed op wetenskapsbeleid te he en noodsaak universiteite (en ook technikons in Suid-Afrika) om 'n groter markgerigtheid, mededingendheid en ondernemingsgees te openbaar. Hierdie globale tendense behels, onder andere, 'n verskuiwing na nuwe modi van kennisproduksie, sowel as 'n toename in finansiele en akademiese verantwoordbaarheid, en afstandsonderrig. Suid-Afrikaanse tersiere instellings kan hierdie wereldwye veranderinge in die landskap van hoar onderwys moeilik ontsnap. Daarbenewens het die demokratiese regering, wat in 1994 aan bewind gekom het, dit ten doel gestel om hoar onderwys in die land te transformeer. In 1997 het die eerste veranderinge ingetree met die publikasie van die Witskrif op Onderwys, en dit is in 2001 opgevolg met die totstandkoming van die Raad op Hoar Onderwys (CHE), die Hoar Onderwyskwaliteitskomitee (HEQC), en die Nasionale Plan vir Hoar Onderwys. Gevolglik het dit nodig geword dat hoar onderwysinstellings oorleg pleeg rakende die toekomstige verloop van voorgraadse en nagraadse onderrig- en opleidingsprogramme. Binne hierdie konteks is dit nodig vir universiteite en technikons om begrip te he vir die behoeftes van hul nagraadse studente. Die oorhoofse doel van hierdie studie was om die persepsies te identifiseer van nagraadse studente aan die eertydse Technikon Natal (nou deel van die Durban Instituut vir Tegnologie). Die fokus was op studente se navorsingservarings met betrekking tot supervisie, kommunikasie, die technikon in die algemeen, die beskikbaarheid van hulpbronne, finansies, tyd, departemente, fakulteite, navorsingsmetodologie, statistiek, biblioteekfasiliteite en kundigheid. Studente wat in 2001 aan die Technikon Natal geregistreer was, is by die ondersoek betrek, ongeag of die student 'n navorsingsvoorstel ingedien het of nie. 'n Posvraelys-opname is gebruik. Die resultate van die opname toon die meerderheid nagraadse studente het 'n negatiewe persepsie van die Technikon. Die studente voel daar is nie genoeg ervare studieleiers om te raadpleeg nie, en dit lei tot onnodige vertragings. Wat kommunikasie betref, voel die studente dat die Technikon nie genoeg inligting omtrent nagraadse prosesse en prosedures versprei nie. In geheel gesien, het studente in die Gesondheidswetenskappe 'n veel groter ontevredenheid uitgespreek as studente in ander fakulteite. In die ander fakulteite was 'n geringe persentasie studente meer positief as negatief omtrent hul nagraadse ervaring. 'n Redelike persentasie studente in die Natuur- en Ingenieurswetenskappe (38%) was egter besluiteloos in hul opinie. Verder het die oop vrae aan die einde van die vraelys, wat kommentaar versoek, veel meer negatiewe as positiewe persepsies ontlok. Die studente is ontevrede met die gebrek aan moderne rekenaarfasiliteite en beskikbare fondse. Hul voel dat dit te lank neem om 'n navorsingsvoorstel goedgekeur te kry. Die meerderheid is van mening dat 'n nagraadse informasiepakket van groot waarde sou wees. Die kommentaar omtrent Navorsingsmetodologie as 'n vak is besonder negatief, veral wat statistiek bet ref, en hulle voel die kursus is te algemeen. Die studente blyk nie ernstige probleme met biblioteekdienste te he nie. Die technikon moet derhalwe strukture in plek stel ten einde die negatiewe persepsies van die studente aan te spreek en hul behoeftes doeltreffend te bestuur. Tesame met die impak van die samesmelting (waarvan die effek nog nie ten volle begryp word nie), moet die instelling ook ernstige oorweging skenk aan die behoeftes van die nagraadse populasie, veral in die Fakulteit van Gesondheid.

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