At the beginning of October, the Siyaphambili Post-school Research Group attended the 2nd Universities South Africa (USAf) Higher Education Conference. As its advertisement suggested, the conference was one “which no one passionate about South Africa’s higher education [could] afford to miss.” The 3-day event was packed with an exhaustive programme built around a combination of plenary sessions, breakaway discussions, and strategy groups. Themed as “The Engaged University,” the conference provided a space for stakeholders to engage on the state of South Africa’s higher education system across a range of sub-themes.
The team attended various sessions presented by the World of Work Strategy Group and Funding Strategy Group. The World of Work sessions addressed topics on modern technologies in the labour market, the 4th industrial revolution, and technological disruption. The Funding Strategy sessions tackled issues relating to sustainable student funding in an unequal society, funding for infrastructure development, and the benefits of shared services across the sector. These sessions were particularly constructive for informing Siyaphambili research that grapples with questions such as what a comprehensive student financial aid system might look like, and how to re-think current policies to address the complex socio-economic contexts in which students – and prospective students – find themselves.