The vision of the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) is to be a cross-faculty unit that contributes to continual improvement in the quality and effectiveness of higher education – at UCT and nationally – through widening access, promoting excellence through equity, developing the curriculum in partnership with faculties, and enhancing the competence of graduates by ensuring the provision of key skills.

CHED’s research arises from institutional and national need as well as individual interest. Higher education has sole responsibility for producing the graduates that provide the core of the advanced knowledge and skills that are essential for South Africa’s social and economic development. This represents a major challenge which the sector is still far from adequately meeting. The government has identified skills shortages as a central obstacle to development, but – despite some successful institutions and areas of excellence – South African higher education remains a low-participation, high-attrition system still characterised by ‘race’ and class inequalities in access and success rates that severely impede progress. Fresh approaches, based on systematic knowledge of teaching and learning, are needed to ensure that the universities, including UCT, can maximise their contribution to the country.

CHED’s research mission is geared to addressing this need through investigating and developing educational theory and practice that are effective in our context.  It aims to ensure that educational development work, at and beyond UCT, is based on rigorous and ethical research that serves such objectives as equity of access, realising the academic potential of students from all sections of the population, improving graduate output and outcomes, and generally strengthening the quality of teaching and learning in higher education. Much of the research focuses on teaching-and-learning approaches, curriculum design – often in relation to specific disciplines – and the conditions that promote learning. There is also a strong strand of research on and for higher education policy, sponsored by bodies such as the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Council on Higher Education, Higher Education South Africa, international charitable foundations, and the National Business Initiative.

South Africa’s challenges are substantial but not unique, and a key feature of CHED’s research is to draw on, extend and disseminate the body of tertiary teaching-and-learning knowledge that has been rapidly growing internationally over the last three decades. To this end, many CHED academic staff are developing productive associations with individuals, institutions and scholarly bodies abroad, and CHED’s Centre for Educational Technology is leading the way with linkages elsewhere in Africa. CHED’s intellectual contribution to national education debates continues to be strong, as indicated in publications in accredited local and regional journals such as SA Journal of Higher Education, the African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, and SA Journal of Libraries and Information Science. However, international interest in South African higher education research is evidenced in the growing number of CHED publications in leading international journals such as Teaching in Higher Education, Studies in Higher Education, International Journal for the Study of Southern African Literature and Languages,International Journal of Community Research and Engagement and International Journal of Education and Development using ICT.

CHED’s research activity and output are increasing. Indicators of growth include a doubling of accredited journal articles from 2005 to 2009, and a five-fold increase in the value of research contracts between 2007 and 2010. CHED now has eight NRF-rated researchers, and, with nearly two-thirds of its permanent academic staff actively involved in the Emerging Researcher Programme, we believe that this number will increase steadily. There are intriguing new areas of inquiry emerging, including taking understanding of aspects of curriculum to a new level through analysing the knowledge characteristics of curricula and qualification types, with significant implications for key issues such as articulation between academic, professional and vocational learning, and access to postgraduate study.

With this trajectory and staff commitment, we are confident that CHED’s research identity and impact will continue to grow.

Professor Nan Yeld
Dean of Higher Education Development



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