Although South Africa currently embraces a unitary higher education system, it is widely accepted that the diversity within this system should form the basis of its strength. This diversity exists not only in the three main categories of higher education institutions (universities of technology (UoT’s), comprehensive universities and traditional universities), but also within each of these three categories.
The abolition of the Committee of Technikon Principals and the establishment of Higher Education South Africa (HESA) resulted in a situation where the particular interests of Universities of Technology were of minor importance in the greater scheme of higher education in South Africa. However due to the unique nature and characteristics of the universities of technology there was a need to attend to the particular requirements of UoT’s.
In 2006 the SATN was established by five South African Universities of Technology (UoTs) i.e. Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Central University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology and the Vaal University of Technology. The SATN Trust was registered in August 2008. In September 2009 Mangosuthu University of Technology became a member of the SATN. In September 2010 the Polytechnic of Namibia also joined the SATN.
Universities of Technology in South Africa (previously known as ‘Technikons’) came into existence in South Africa on 1 January 2004. However it was recognised that the concept of a university of technology was not well-known in South Africa and steps had already been taken to inform South Africans of this new type of higher education institution in the South African higher education landscape.
In the transformation from a “Technikon” to a “University of Technology,” the brand of these institutions was lost due to the name change. Consequently, UoTs are the unknown part of the single co-ordinated higher education system which promotes co-operative governance, provides for programme-based higher education and concentrates on problem-solving in their research and engagement with the community.
The SATN was established in order to
- promote the development of national education and training policies in accordance with the nature and character of the universities of technology
- represent the universities of technology at international level
- promote mobility and employability of university of technology students
- promote academic quality by building strong universities of technology
- promote relevant research and development and to assist with the transfer of appropriate technologies
- promote co-operation between the universities of technology and commerce and industry
- promote universities of technology as a national asset
The Universities of Technology use their national conferences as a branding and marketing tool to bring awareness to other Higher Education Institutions, Commerce and Industry and to the general public on this new type of higher education institution in South Africa and the role it could play in their respective areas.