Centres of excellence in the context of further education and training in South Africa

01 Jul 2020

Since 1994 South African further education and training (FET) has undergone significant and fundamental changes. These changes include the transfer of colleges between state departments, curriculum revision, forced mergers and a shift in the student population. As a result of the growing interest in, and funding of, vocationally aligned education, education and training excellence models have permeated into the management portfolio of South Africa?s FET. FET colleges (FETCs) have been faced with the emerging excellence discourses in the higher education and business sectors, as well as funding and accreditation linked motivators. How FETC managers have chosen to incorporate, or not to incorporate, centres of excellence (CoEs) into their organizational structures indicates both the difference in the application of CoE models to the sector compared with the higher education and business sectors and the way FETCs are managed in their volatile environment. This paper uses data initially gathered for a funded project aimed at identifying excellence indicators applicable to the FET sector, and a comparative content analysis of related publications and telephone interviews with senior staff responsible for innovation. The authors argue that higher education or business excellence models cannot be applied to the further education and training college environment; models need to be adapted to suit this specific type of environment.