A review of forestry curricula in South African tertiary institutions

Mgaga, Palesa
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Modern day foresters assume a variety of roles that constantly challenge them to remain professionally relevant in a dynamic system that requires them to engage with the continuously expanding number of stakeholders that need to be engaged in the forestry sector. This study is important in understanding how a forester’s job has shifted from simply managing trees and forests for timber to managing trees and forests to achieve the interests of various stakeholders and biological ecosystems that are influenced by profit generating industries. These socio-economic roles have created new trends in the structure of forestry curricula that are reflected in labour markets and the consistent demand for forestry graduates to acquire a broad array of competencies. The focus of this research is to provide a baseline study that will highlight the range and improve our understanding of forestry education programmes in South African tertiary institutions. Document review, Behavioural Event Interviews (BEIs) and gap analysis were the methods used. The research approach used case studies where students and academic experts from four tertiary institutions and forestry employers were interviewed. The findings from this research highlighted some of the key issues associated with forestry curriculum design which included disciplinary versus interdisciplinary studies e.g. plantation growth and plantation sustainability. Maintaining a programme with low enrolment numbers and declining capacity in, facilities and funding for various degrees is difficult resulting in poorly prepared students from some institutions. The main conclusions drawn from this study are that a higher level of integration of social sciences in forestry curricula is pivotal to resolving some of the challenges facing the forestry sector, and that in light of programmes whose delivery process is severely restricted by budget constraints, solutions developed jointly between industry and tertiary institutions should be on going. Based on these findings this study proposes stronger national collaboration between forestry education programmes and stakeholders in the forestry sector.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Science (Coursework and Research Report in Environmental Sciences) May 2018. South Africa
Mgaga, Palesa (2018) A review of forestry curricula in South African tertiary institutions, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <http://hdl.handle.net/10539/25745>