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Research Chairs

The ELRC is currently home to three Research Chairs.

In 2015 Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka was awarded a prestigious Tier 1 SARChI Chair under the National Research Foundation’s South African Research Chair Initiative. This chair has an explicit focus on transformative social learning and green skills learning pathways.

The Chair’s proposal is aligned with the Department of Science and Technology’s Global Change National Research Plan, but focuses on the way in which global change challenges play out in South Africa and on the African continent. It addresses a need to better understand social learning processes and systems in response to global change challenges as they play out at the intersection of society-economy-environment and politics. 

The Chair focus on advancing knowledge of:

    1. Transformative social learning and global change responses in an African context
    2. Social learning systems and green skills learning pathways into the green economy
    3. Ways in which transformative social learning can be systemically developed for societal transformation within a climate resilient, sustainable and socially just path
  • Chair of Environment & Sustainability Education

As far back as 1990, a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF South Africa) and Murray and Roberts, saw the establishment of Africa’s first chair in environmental education in the Education Department at Rhodes University, South Africa. The Murray and Roberts Chair of Environmental Education was responsible for starting a research programme in environmental education, and building a cadre of environmental educators with post-graduate qualifications in the field.

Through engagement in the small but vibrant environmental education community, it soon became apparent that capacity development was also needed at non-graduate levels, and more resources were needed to adequately respond to the burgeoning demand for academic, professional, community and policy support. Thus in 1997, the Gold Fields Environmental Education Service Centre was established, to complement the Chair. These two entities formed the Rhodes University Environmental Education Unit, which was able to offer expanded professional development and policy development services to post-apartheid system building in South Africa, and in South Africa’s expanded interactions within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The Chair supported the development of the first Masters in Environmental Education programme at Rhodes, as well as the SADC International Certificate Course in Environmental Education, which has graduated over 1000 professionals in the region. Research support includes conducting research using strong educational and social theory; producing guidelines for transformative and generative research and evaluation methodology,; and supervising Masters and PhD students. The Chair served on the UNESCO International Reference Group for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and provided Education for Sustainable Development research support to the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme. A key focus of these activities involves improving the quality and relevance of education and training initiatives focussing on environmental concerns. 

Renamed the Chair of Environment and Sustainability Education, and now being funded directly by Rhodes University, the Chair has had two incumbents during its existence. Professor Eureta Rosenberg was the first to be appointed against the position, from 1991-1999. From 2000-2015, Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka was the incumbent, until she was awarded a SARChI Chair by the National Research Foundation. Prof Rosenberg took up the position again in September 2016. Prof Rob O’Donoghue served as the Director of the Centre from 2000-2016.

The initial investment in 1990 has over the years attracted two other research Chairs; thousands of students; hundreds of local, national and international partnerships; and resources for the establishment and staffing of what is now the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC). We congratulate the foresight of those who started this initiative, thank all who worked hard to make it thrive, and welcome continued collaboration!

In March 2018 Rhodes University (ELRC, NALSU and Community Engagement) were awarded a Research Chair to focus on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in a SETA Environment. To be rolled out over three years (August 2018 – March 2020), this research programme is an initiative of South Africa’s 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and strongly supported by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). It is funded in the first instance by the BANKSETA and ServicesSETA.

The research programme consists of nine individual projects, aimed at developing frameworks, methods, guidelines, tools and capacity for M&E of Sector Education and Training Authorities’ work and impacts.  These projects are:

Project 1:  Overall M&E framework for SETAs

Project 2:  Tools for evaluating skills for enterprise development in a township economy

Project 3:  Performance standards for SETAs

Project 4:  Cost-benefit analysis tool for evaluating work-based learning

Project 5:  Tracer study guidelines for work-based learning

Project 6:  Framework for M&E in relation to the Discretionary Grant

Project 7:  Framework for M&E in relation to the Mandatory Grant

Project 8:  Evaluating SETA governance

Project 9:  Capacity building 

The programme will address the fact that despite extensive monitoring and reporting already taking place in the national post-school education and training system, some important evaluative questions about our post-school education and training system and how to strengthen it, remain unanswered.

It will explore innovative methods to address the need for evaluation at multiple levels: from single initiatives by individual SETAs, to a composite national picture. Both conceptual depth and practical feasibility are important, with due consideration of the kinds of M&E that SETAs and their research partners can realistically undertake.

A key consideration is to ensure that M&E processes in the national system actually support transformation agendas. Currently, drives to improve performance and accountability through managerialism and compliance control, threaten to swamp the transformative intent of the post-school education and training system. Performance management should serve transformation, not inundate it. Is a balance possible and if not, what is the alternative?

The answers to such fundamental questions need to inform M&E tools and design. M&E is not just a technical activity, it is deeply strategic, normative and ideological. Making sure that processes are aligned with intentions, may well be where the system’s capacity needs to grow, and where university-based research can play a significant role.

The Chair in M&E in a SETA Environment is held by Prof Eureta Rosenberg of the ELRC. A number of project leads and researchers have already been appointed, although staffing has not yet been completed. Prof Mike Rogan  (NALSU) leads Project 5 and Dr Glenda Raven, a post-doc scholar at the ELRC, leads Project 4. Mike Ward, PhD student at the ELRC, is the first researcher to be appointed in the programme, and Danel Janse van Rensburg is the project manager.  Consultations, interviews and policy reviews are underway. The National Skills Authority has asked that the interim findings of this research be shared in one or more colloquia during 2019. Until then, interested parties are welcome to contact us at Rhodes University.


Last Modified: Wed, 13 Mar 2019 12:33:49 SAST