Game-changing Leaders

Game-changing Leaders
Learning Brief

University of Cape Town - CHED

Institutionalizing UCT's Global Citizenship programme

Category: Game-changing Leaders | Youth leadership pathways | 16 July, 2014 - 18:00



UCT’s Global Citizenship: leading for social justice programme (‘GC’ for short), is a co-curricular programme open to all UCT students and supported by the Vice Chancellor’s Strategic Fund. UCT’s revised mission and strategic plan were adopted at the end of 2009. They commit the university to producing graduates “whose qualifications are internationally recognised and locally applicable, underpinned by values of engaged citizenship and social justice” (UCT, 2009).

In this Learning Brief, we pay attention to the processes and activities aimed at institutionalizing the GC programme for longer-term sustainability. We also discuss our reflections on the progress we’ve made, and pose some questions about going forward.


Institutionalization of the GC programme is an increasingly important aspect and where we focus a lot of our effort. Through this, we aim to contribute to UCT’s emphasis on graduate attributes, at both a faculty and institutional level. The current UCT Strategic Plan places an emphasis on defining and embedding – in its students – key graduate attributes such as the ability to learn in an electronic and global age, the capacity for critical comparative thinking, and effective cross cultural communication.

Faculty level institutionalisation

GC in the engineering curriculum

The EBE Faculty strategic goals align with the university’s strategic plan, as well as with the Engineering Council of South Africa’s requirements that engineering students demonstrate multidisciplinary work and understand the impact of their decisions on the personal, social, and cultural values and requirements of those they affect and interact with. As such, the faculty began incorporating GC into the engineering curriculum as early as 2011 and has seen significant development since.

The new ‘Social Infrastructures’ course aims to meet all these goals. It is tailored to all undergraduate students in EBE with the hope that it will also attract students from other faculties to allow a fully interdisciplinary experience for the students. The course is titled ‘Social Infrastructures: engaging with community for change’. The term ‘social infrastructures’ in the course title refers to the facilities and mechanisms that support the establishment of services like education, health care, community development and social welfare. The concept of ‘social’ thus implies that development and any other form of ‘service’ cannot be looked at without considering the needs of people, of communities.

In the introduction to the course, we discuss the idea that in an increasingly divided world where the gap between poor and wealthy nations is swelling, we need ‘engaged citizens’ who can respond to pressing global concerns and address local realities. We argue that we would therefore like our graduates – as citizens – to be prepared to think and act in new ways: aimed at problem-posing and critical reflection, understanding and improving the lives of communities, locally and globally. This course combines classroom-based learning and reflection, with community-engagement and experiential learning (2 fieldtrips). It also provides a space to ask questions, to reflect and to develop ideas about these issues.

At the end of this course, it is hoped that students will leave more socially aware, reflective, and with some understanding of the many challenges facing cities in the context of inequality. Through this process of learning, active listening, critical thinking and engagement, it is hoped that students will find a voice to locate their views on the relationship of people to infrastructures in contexts of extreme inequality - as students, as emerging professionals, and as citizens.

Institutional-level work

Step 1 – The GC Award

When we initially conceptualised the GC Award, we wanted to explore whether the university would be willing to offer an Award to graduating students who had completed all three components of the GC programme. However at the same time, we became aware of a number of other units in the university doing complimentary work. These included the Careers Service and the Department of Student Affairs. As part of our movement towards institutionalisation, it made sense to engage them in discussions around this issue.

We have thus initiated discussions with both units to look at opportunities for linking together with various other extracurricular experiences under the ‘graduate attributes’ definition.  We are investigating the possibilities for using a virtual ‘e-portfolio’ to collect and display students’ achievements and activities, which contribute to their holistic development as young leaders.  This work is significant in building a profile of initiatives that are aimed at addressing graduate attributes and recognising students’ experiences beyond the formal curriculum.

Step 2 – Establishing the GC Advisory Committee

When the GC programme was established in 2010 we had a Steering Committee that worked with us in getting the programme off the ground. As part of the broader approach to embed this programme in the university institution, we needed a more representative and strategic advisory structure. Responding to this, we thus set up the GC Advisory Committee in July. Members include deputy deans, students, institutional planning, student affairs and career services. The Advisory Committee is chaired by the DVC: Social Responsiveness and Transformation, with a reporting line to the DVC Teaching and Learning. A new UCT teaching and learning committee has been established at the university and this means that concerns about the GC programme’s relationship to the university have been formalized through key structures.

Step 3 – University curriculum review task team

The Convenor of the GC programme has been appointed to a university-wide curriculum review task team, looking specifically at breadth in the curriculum. This comes directly out of her role on the GC programme and provides further visibility for the programme. The task team is in the process of finalising its role and mandate.

Step 4 – University funding for 2 core staff

Until this year, the salaries of the two core staff on the programme - the project administrator and the programme convenor – were paid out of GC funding. As of late this year both these posts are university-funded. This reduces our demands on external funding, and signifies an implicit willingness to support the GC programme.


Blend of co-curricular and curriculum-embedded elements

In our process towards institutionalization, we have met with a number of the programme’s supporters to help us think through issues of scale. We need to reach more students but our GC model, with its focus on intensity and deep engagement, is quite difficult to scale-up.

What our meetings have made clear is that we need to think about a dual model i.e. both credit and non-credit bearing. There was total agreement that the small, intense and deep learning experience is good in its own right, and clearly working for students. Structurally we are also forced to continue with a dual model, as many students cannot take additional credit-bearing courses because their degrees do not have space for electives. A credit-bearing course would cost them additional fees.

GC: A catalyst for institutional change?

What we need to think about going forward is whether there is an inherent ‘multiplier’ that we can ‘take to scale’. Phrased differently, “Can the GC programme (or core aspects of it) act as a catalyst for broader institutional change?” If so, how will we take this forward?

In addressing these questions, we believe our experience of developing a different kind of pedagogy, and dealing with contemporary issues to engage and connect with students, are important to share with others in the institution. From the outset, we have argued that GC is a learning programme (and is recognized on the academic transcript as a UCT Short Course) but it is not a conventional academic project. We bring social justice into the framing of our questions and considerations and use this lens to think about whether and how we might be responsive to and responsible for the world in which we live. We are concerned both with ‘the global’ and its connections with ‘the local’. 

The global debates course considers global issues as well as how these are realized or represented locally. The service-learning course focuses more specifically on how in our engagement and partnerships with community organizations and representatives we have the potential to mirror global dynamics and relationships in microcosm. At both levels we challenge students to confront the centrality of power in local and global relationships and dealings.


Taking our work forward, the challenge exists in translating the innovative components of our approach to teaching and learning (both in terms of pedagogy and content) into an approach that can be taken up in other ways through more conventional, credit-bearing courses. This programme is important in its role of building active citizens. It also has an crucial role in the making of the intellectual. In other words, the programme is sound, credible, and scholarly innovative. It is about building a sense of citizenship and social activism through intellectual engagement. We want students to have the opportunity to be critical thinkers – not just through opportunities for social activism and engagement but critical thinkers who also have sense of the world of ideas and how these two aspects are related.

University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Level 6, Hlanganani Building, North Lane, Upper Campus 

 (021) 650 2894

In Short

This Learning Brief highlights the processes and activities aimed at institutionalising the University of Cape Town’s Global Citizenship programme. Educators and academics interested in promoting citizenship values amongst their students will find this brief useful in terms of implementation strategies, and reflective insight.

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