‘Arts to cut 71 modules’: UKZN turnaround strategy revealed

2013-11-01 00:00

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Arts is to cut at least 71 modules and reduce staff numbers as it aims to assist the College of Humanities to eradicate its budget deficit of R45 million, according to a leaked report.

According to a draft School of Arts turnaround strategy released on Monday to staff, modules that do not meet the enrolment criteria, unless externally funded or identified as modules in line with the university’s academic transformation agenda, are to be scrapped or phased out. The college has identified 467 modules, of which 250 are in the arts school.

The cutting of subjects forms part of a wider internal research project, reported by The Witness in September, where each module was assessed on its enrolment performance between 2009 and 2013.

Over 700 modules were identified across the various colleges for failing to meet the new criteria outlined in draft minimum enrolment norms to be implemented in 2014. The new norms require a minimum of between 40 and 50 students per module in first year in order for the course to remain viable, while minimums have also been set for second- through to fourth-year students.

Humanities modules are the most affected, while the least affected will be the School of Health Sciences.

The School of Arts includes modules in language, performing arts, music and media.

Subjects to face the greatest pressure are Afrikaans and music, while German is to be scrapped from the curriculum for new enrolments and completely phased out at the end of 2015. While two Zulu modules also faced the chop, the Zulu department was signalled for growth to fulfil the university’s strategy to make Zulu compulsory for all first-year students.

In an e-mail sent to staff on Monday, acting Arts School HoD Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa said French is to be condensed to a single campus, which will most likely be Pietermaritzburg, while Spanish will continue as it is externally funded, as will Italian due to its link to Bachelor of Music; however, the school is to talk to the “Italian embassy” to make a “commitment to pay for staffing”.

Hlongwa said Swahili will continue and has been given two years to grow, while Zulu non-mother tongue modules will continue to be offered in the second and third year.

Other subjects feeling the pinch are English, media and performance studies as well as drama and media.

Hlongwa said music, although it is being rationalised, has been deemed “important” as “no other institution in KZN … offers our programmes”.

The document said the school had not met student enrolment targets for the 2012 and 2013 academic years, and the plan is to turn this around in 2014. It also signalled a need for more research. The report admitted that low language enrolment was not a wholly UKZN challenge, but existed at other institutions in South Africa.

“The school will be prioritising African languages in line with the college plan and the university plan to offer Zulu to first-year students in the university. The school will be servicing all the colleges in the University of KwaZulu-Natal through Zulu modules,” said the report.

The report said while the school has dropped 71 modules, this number is likely to grow as “the school continues to discuss issues of curriculum transformation and campus-specific offerings”.

A large component of the report looked at staff workload and capacity, pointing at fewer contract workers being employed and better performance being obtained from currently employed permanent staff.

Dr Meinhard Uken, chairperson of the German Cultural Council of KZN, said he wanted to place on record his “shock and sadness at the announcement that German is to be scrapped as a module”.

Attempts to contact either Hlongwa or the communication’s department of UKZN for comment were not successful.

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