Strategic Orientation of the Rhodes Education Faculty

In 2013, the centenary of the Rhodes Education Department was used to launch the Faculty’s agenda for the future. This agenda was towards a ten-year period of steady growth and expansion, notably in Foundation Phase initial teacher education and building the field of Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE), as well as consolidating, strengthening and ensuring the sustainability of the Faculty’s research chairs. The intent was to meet the need for quality and relevant education for all in the context of an ongoing crisis in education, especially schooling, in South Africa in general and in the Eastern Cape and Grahamstown/Makhanda in particular. The Faculty has built strong relationships with civil society, the state, potential donors and governors, which positions it well for bold and courageous steps into the future.

 In 2013, we agreed that the Faculty should lead a university-driven initiative focused on social development through quality education that is aligned to Rhodes University’s strategic vision to proactively engage in ways that are mutually beneficial with the local community of which it is part. To strengthen this vision, the Faculty signed a Memorandum of Agreement with GADRA, a local community-focused NGO in 2014. Since then, the Faculty has been collaborating with GADRA on different projects and worked with the Community Engagement Division (Diana Hornby) and the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, to conceptualise the Re-vitalising Grahamstown Schools’ Project. This includes the strengthening of ECDE as envisaged, with a proposal to integrate the Rhodes University Day Care Centre as a site for workplace-learning and professional development to ECDE practitioners and teachers, to be complemented with proposals for a Foundation Phase Literacy or 0-9 years Research Chair. These initiatives are among several strategic initiatives in the Faculty, and are noted here for the manner in which they illustrate the vision and strategic intent of the Education Faculty.

The overall strategic orientation of the Faculty is towards providing quality and relevant education and access for all. 

 More specifically we wish to be a Faculty of Education that …

  • has a commitment to the provision and understanding of quality education, and to the transformation of education at a local, national and global level;
  • is concerned with education in a broad sense, across the ETDP sector, i.e. the learning of children and adults in diverse contexts; the professional preparation and in-service development of teachers and other educators; non-formal education and learning; the leadership, management and evaluation of education systems; and the professional development of academics in higher education
  • is involved in research, national policy development, and professional and community work within service learning and engagement programmes;
  • is actively involved in knowledge production that will deepen collective understanding, enable change and address critical issues in education;
  • actively engages in disseminating and applying knowledge in the community, profession and academy through our teaching, publications and conference presentations;
  • supports educators to learn to be competent and critically reflective and reflexive practitioners with the knowledge and skills to facilitate quality learning in all educational contexts;
  • is characterised by a high level of connectivityflexibility, adaptability, collegiality, innovation, creativity and renewal, and
  • is an exciting, vibrant, energising, aspirational and inspirational place to work.

 Secondly, we are committed to the following core values which shape our vision and guide our decisions:


 We are focused on providing, facilitating, achieving and sustaining quality and relevant education

  • High quality model of provision: We adopt an approach that is characterised by high-intensity contact (both on and off-campus and both face-to-face and on-line), flexibility and learner-oriented programme design and delivery for our diverse student body, and an emphasis on practice informed by current research and theory.  We strive to encourage reflexive practice among our students, since the absence of critical engagement has contributed to the precarious state of South Africa’s education system.  Professional growth, through creative and critical engagement with theory, practice and context is fundamental to our work.  We wish to be known as the education faculty of choice in South Africa.
  • Quality in terms of student learning and success: (to be measured against retention and throughput rates). A commitment to ensuring that all students succeed, through the provision of appropriate, high quality academic support for students. We are committed to producing critical, creative, ethical, competent, reflective and reflexive educators, researchers and leaders in education.
  • Quality in terms of research teaching: We wish to be known for outstanding supervision and aim to build the capacity of our growing number of doctoral staff as supervisors.
  • High quality of research: We are committed to cutting-edge scholarship and playing a lead role in building and sustaining the different knowledge fields and communities of practice to which we belong. We are predominantly, but not exclusively, programmatically oriented towards research.
  • High quality of infrastructure and facilities: We are committed to maintaining and enhancing our existing facilities and creating new facilities that are conducive to individual and group learning and information technologies. We wish to be known for our cutting edge provision and use of information technologies for teaching and learning.

We aim to create an environment in which there is a willingness to engage and collaborate with colleagues and a sense of belonging, in which individuals have maximum freedom to express themselves while embracing a diversity of ideas and expression.


We aspire to a Faculty and institutional culture that is inclusive and diverse in respect of colour, class, culture, language and geographic origin. We appreciate our differences, but want to be united within them.  We embrace the need for meaningful transformation, which means moving beyond assimilation of newcomers into established cultures, towards encouraging newcomers to help establish new cultures (see below). We value independence and, if and when appropriate, inter-dependence between different departments, institutes and projects.  We are committed to paradigmatic openness (i.e. accept that research orientations may differ from field to field and are guided by the principle of ‘fitness for purpose’).  We build and sustain an environment characterised by creativity, risk-taking, collaboration and collegiality, mutual respect, flexibility, accountability and a capacity for change.


 We agree to act in ways that are fair and ethical. 


 We accept that we treat others with civility and openness, and recognise the inherent dignity in each individual.


 We take responsibility for our decisions and actions.

 Thirdly, we agree that the following guiding principles will inform our academic endeavour:

  • Balance in our core academic endeavour (teaching and research): The relationship between teaching and research is dialogical; is interlinked and interdependent; and requires strong links with schooling and education systems, albeit at different levels and in different contexts.  Our core academic endeavour is within and across different fields of education, namely higher education, formal schooling, and educator professional development for wider social learning, youth and community learning contexts.
  • Balance in student enrolment: We offer programmes for initial teacher education (pre-service); in-service teacher professional development, general educator development courses, and post-graduate research.
  • Balance in student demographics: We enrol the core of our students from the Eastern Cape, together with significant numbers from the rest of South Africa, southern Africa (particularly Namibia) and Anglophone Africa.
  • Engagement with the field: This is pre-requisite for us to pursue our academic endeavour. Community engagement and involvement in our professional and scholarly fields are necessary additions to our core business of teaching and researching. A dialogical relationship characterises teaching and learning/research/community engagement.  Our core business requires professional collaboration at the highest levels of the education system (where professional status is necessary), and community engagement, that is, service to levels of the education system where professional status is not necessary.
  • Engagement with schools and other centres of learning: We will maintain, strengthen and expand the relationships we have with schools in Makhana and other districts in which we work in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. We collaborate closely with local schools in the important task of mentoring pre-service teachers into the profession.  Schools and other centres of learning provide a service to the Faculty through the experiential learning and research opportunities they offer to our students and academics.  This enables the Faculty to live up to the principles of community engagement; namely, mutual benefit and respect between RU departments and Faculties and their community partners.
  • Engagement with social partners: Our Departments, Chairs and Centres engage with a range of social (government, industry and civil society) partners who are all needed for education to thrive. These include active engagements and memorandums of agreement with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), and the South African Department of Basic Education, as well as the Eastern Cape Education Department, among many others. Some of our Chairs work on a continent-wide basis and Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka advises the African Council of Education Ministers on education for sustainable development. To facilitate and extend our work we have multiple funding agreements with a range of donors, which see several million rands of funding flowing through the Faculty annually, facilitated by programme managers and a growing team of administrative support staff. We have several long-standing relationships with foundations and industry partners, which reflect well on our credibility, professional conduct and ability to inspire confidence. These are all important factors to nurture.
  • We commit to active participation in wider educational processes and serving a local, national and African education community.  We strive to be relevant in terms of what knowledge is taught and learned and how it is taught and learned.  In view of issues of epistemological access, the historical suppression and (at times) neglect of knowledge from the Global South, and the failure of some aspects of the Western canon, we take seriously the calls to decolonise the curriculum in a meaningful way, and we strive to deepen and update our understanding of the student body with whom we work. We are innovative and proactive in our partnerships and collaborations (academic and professional) with the wider educational community. 

    FOCUSED and STRATEGIC in our actions and decision-making 
  • We use the academic project as well as functional units as an organisational design and leadership principle.  This means overlaying on the Faculty functional units Teaching/ Learning and Research HUBS (T/L & R Hubs) that are field and discipline and/or phase-specific.
  • We build stronger field/discipline-based communities within and across different departments, institutes, centres in our Faculty.  This will facilitate greater cohesion and progression in the different qualifications we offer and they will help us to build and strengthen our post-graduate work and research.  T/L & R Hubs will facilitate wider participation by all parts of faculty in the different qualifications we offer; they will enable field and discipline-based induction and mentorship for new staff, and facilitate more effective succession planning. 
  • The faculty is characterised by paradigmatic openness (i.e. we recognize that there are different orientations to research, we are guided by the principle of ‘fitness for purpose’ and accept that research orientations may differ from field to field).  
  • The Faculty is committed to the sustainability of existing Chairs and the creation of new Chairs. 
  • Faculty members are proactive, and vigorously engaged with the state, both nationally and provincially, in setting research and teacher education agendas.

Last Modified: Thu, 28 May 2020 16:29:35 SAST