This special edition of Kagisano is dedicated to providing readers with some insight into a new sub-sector in higher education in South Africa - universities of technology (UoTs). South Africa has not previously encountered such an institutional type in its history. This edition, and the articles contained therein, are designed to introduce the reader to the “new kid on the block”, but at the same time to reinforce the academic credentials of this technology higher education sub-sector.
Universities of technology came into being as part of the major reconfiguration of the higher education landscape, which took place from 2004 onwards. Through a process of mergers and redesignations, South Africa’s 36 higher education institutions (21 "traditional" universities and 15 technikons) were trimmed down to 23 - comprising 11 "traditional" universities (some of which were merged with others), 6 "comprehensive" universities (arising out of mergers between a traditional university and a technikon), and 6 universities of technology (created from 11 merged and unmerged technikons).
Universities of technology have as their foundation the former technikons which built a solid reputation in providing career-oriented programmes. These prepared graduates for the world of work. Their research was of an applied nature and their links with industry ensured that technikon programmes remained relevant, up-to-date, and that their graduates were familiar, through work-integrated learning, with the way industry functioned.
Throughout the world, universities of technology have made a major impact on the development of their countries and regional economies by preparing graduates for the world of work, and applying their research skills to identifying the problems and needs of society and industry, and together finding solutions to those problems. This edition of Kagisano provides an insight into the development, growth, direction and activities of a university of technology. It serves to emphasise that in the present higher education landscape, all universities in South Africa are equal – they only differ in their focus.