It was an important show of sector support when a middle manager from the Department of Higher Education and Training addressed the executive leadership of 24 of South Africa’s 26 institutions last week, at their annual entrepreneurship workshop.

Mr Shiba Diketane (left), Deputy Director: University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP) at the DHET, was unequivocal in his praise of the level of commitment shown by top university structures for their commitment to implementing the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme, calling it one of priority programmes of Government and the university system.

He was addressing deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs), deans and executive directors at the fifth Universities South Africa (USAf)’s Executive Leadership Workshop (ELW) convened by the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education to strengthen universities’ innovation commercialisation for social impact. Diketane applauded the highest level of commitment from those in audience, “especially to EDHE. Through its implementation we can go far, not only as a system but our national economy.”

Capacity development

He said that when asked by academics and partners in the implementation of DHET programmes – for ideas on how to implement capacity development, his department’s response is simple: “Our business is to support you, not to do what universities are expected to do. The EDHE programme, implemented through the UCDP, is transformative. It focuses on key areas of staff and student development as well as programme development or curriculum review for transformation.” He said Entrepreneurship development focuses on all three of these areas, which is what sets it apart from other components of the UCDP.

The Deputy Director acknowledged the “stubborn challenges” of slow transformation in the system, adding that management teams from various universities faced a whole range of challenges regarding institutional structures and cultures.

“Capacitating people is key. We must cultivate an understanding that the priority of transforming our system to address challenges relating to unemployment, poverty and many other social ills remains very high for us, as government, as well as for the sector – because that is what universities are designed to do.

“They are not there to produce knowledge for the sake of producing knowledge. They are principally there to address social challenges, and their transformation remains important.”
He told delegates that they were “properly situated to drive our system towards a transformed national economy”.


He said the transformation project had to address quality across four areas of the academic agenda.

  • Teaching and learning
  • Curriculum development
  • Research and engagement
  • Leadership management and governance

Diketane said that to transform the system, it was necessary to work closely with leaders, the key enablers of successful programme implementation. He said some of the areas they had to concentrate on are:

  • EDHE, as a cross-cutting programme

This focuses on capacitating students with entrepreneurial skills and staff with development skills – not just in one area of the academic project, but in skills across teaching and learning, research and community development, and beyond. “If staff members are adequately capacitated, our universities should be able to produce better and high-quality graduates able to participate fully in our economy.”

  • Programme development

“Government expects universities to do what is expected of them.” Key priorities included curriculum transformation through review, change or development. “As contexts and needs change, so too must the university system. Assessment, too, must change in its entirety to match the curriculum change,” Diketane said.

  • Collaborations and partnerships

These, he said, are critical as government cannot implement capacity development without partnerships with key stakeholders, social partners and universities. Diketane said that a range of UCDP collaborative programmes are implemented in partnership with key partners in the system. He informed delegates that consultations are underway with the Department of Science and Innovation, the National Research Foundation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and regional universities, to ensure that this programme is expanded to cover a bigger space. “We need to deliver the programme qualitatively – currently we’re not doing enough,” he said.

  • Additional funding opportunity

He further told delegates: “You are an important component in the successful implementation of particularly the EDHE programme. You have an opportunity to build entrepreneurial initiatives into your institutional plans as we prepare for the new UCDP cycle, so you don’t only depend on national funding.”

He added that government remains committed and is looking at developing policy nationally, at strengthening the collaborative networks and at mobilising more funding to make sure this programme expands and is strengthened in its implementation.

The World of Work Strategy Group

During the ELW, Professor Thandwa Mthembu (right), Chairperson of USAf’s World of Work Strategy Group (WSG) and Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Durban University of Technology (DUT), shared the four strategic priorities of the WSG for 2023, namely:

  • Work Integrated Learning and Internships: this is about enhancing the capacity of universities to roll out learning activities related to work-integrated learning and internships effectively. WIL is necessitated by changes in the very nature of work as a function of technological and social changes, with significant implications for curriculum and work-based learning design for future student generations.
  • Institutionalising entrepreneurship development in Higher education to ensure an innovative entrepreneurship-focused curriculum in higher education.
  • Graduate destination studies – whether regional or national – must include engagements with employer associations like the South African Graduate Employment Association. “We have to understand those graduate destinations and what drives employment in the regions and at national level.”
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution: The WSG will enable universities to monitor changes in the work environment including the impact of the new technologies on the future world of work. These changes have enormous implications on how universities shape their own internal functioning and adequately prepare students for the future world of work.

He also outlined the WSG’s model for entrepreneurship education and development for universities:

  • Level 1: Ensuring the development of entrepreneurial mindsets in students so that they become entrepreneurs by design and not by default. Curricula that help students finish their qualifications and follow their entrepreneurial orientation.
  • Level 2: Allocation of an annual budget for entrepreneurship.
  • Level 3: Developing fully fledged programmes. “They don’t all have to be entrepreneurially driven. Regular programmes (certificates, diplomas, degrees) will exist, but there will be programmes that focus on entrepreneurially aligned students.”
  • Level 4: Macro and micro ecosystems: “These are important because without them you will frustrate students who have been through your programmes. If, after incubation, there are no sub-systems that interface with those at the university, it becomes a problem.”

He said the WSG had also established that:

  1. Eco systems need to be built through Quad-Helix partnerships – the university, government, industry and civil society. Contributions to the lives and livelihoods of the broader society drives the process.
  2. Viable macro and micro ecosystems are needed for entrepreneurship education and development at a local, regional, national and international levels. “How many of us can say we have engaged deeply with municipalities and other organs of society at a local level? If we don’t engage, students graduate into local environments where the university, business and government are not well aligned. It is necessary to understand what is happening at regional level. “If you want your ecosystem to be viable you always have to keep track of what is happening at the local, regional and national levels.” The VC called on all government departments to help universities establish viable ecosystems “without which, whatever we do as universities, or industry, might end up nowhere,” he concluded.

Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.

EDHE ELW 2023 Articles