HELTASA, a Key Stakeholder in the Higher Education Domain

On 14 March 2018, two HELTASA executive members, Langutani Masehela, and Ness Merckel represented the organisation at the Miratho Stakeholder meeting. The meeting was held at the OR Tambo’s Garden Court Hotel in Johannesburg and was a dialogue about the research project. Most public universities and other higher education stakeholders such as the Department of Higher Education and Training, Council on Higher education and Thusanani Foundation were represented at this meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to consult with stakeholders of Miratho with regard to a research project they are involved in. The project is headed by the SARCHi Chair in Higher Education and Human Development, Prof Melanie Walker who is the Director of Higher Education Research and Development of the University of Free State. Miratho is a long-term mixed method project aimed at ‘investigating the multi-dimensional dynamics or factors shaping rural and township students’ effective opportunities to access higher education, flourish and participate, and move from higher education to work’.

The Miratho team uses Armatya Sen’s capabilities approach to understand the challenges that students from low-income backgrounds face as they make their way through in higher education. Through this project, they are developing a human capabilities’-based higher education inclusive learning outcomes index. The Miratho dialogue sparked some ideas around how we might, for example, include, involve and invite students to become more active role players in HELTASA, especially in light of the notion of the ‘capability of epistemic contribution’ as a key area of research for Miratho which involves ‘inclusive learning outcomes capability’ which is deeply social.

“It goes beyond epistemic access, which we know is widespread in the literature, to say all students ought to be recognized as epistemic subjects sharing information and forms of social understanding, in which we are both givers and receivers in the reciprocal and participative project of making meaning”. From this viewing point, exploring issues of teaching and learning in much more nuanced and responsive ways is central to the higher education project. For more information around these and other issues, see their website.

HELTASA is proud to be associated with projects of this nature. It is an indication that as a teaching and learning association of Southern Africa, HELTASA is regarded as an important partner organisation responsible for social change. What also emerged from the meeting was that other organisations look to HELTASA as a meaningful resource to engage with and address pertinent higher education issues. In this regard, HELTASA has a responsibility to rethink its role in the higher education context, hence its current agenda to increase its impact beyond the annual conference. Our wish is to promote visibility by introducing critical dialogues at a regional level throughout the country.

We therefore, request you to suggest pertinent topics for discussion in your region that could be placed on the agenda for our critical dialogues in your region. We are aware that nationally, issues of higher education funding, the complexity of professionalising teaching and the ongoing debates around decolonisation and transformations of the higher education classrooms are some of the contested topics that we are grappling with.  However, there could be other issues that are critical in your context. Which other topics are critical in your region? We aim that together we confront, head-on, challenges that are faced by higher education communities represented by HELTASA.


To share your ideas, drop us a line, send us a question or share a text that you think is relevant to these critical dialogues and we will be in contact with you soon. You may address your communication to Mary.Masehela@univen.ac.za or vanessam@uj.ac.za . We look forward to hearing from you.

We also encourage you and your community of practice to join 2018 HELTASA NOW! Follow this link https://heltasa.org.za/about/membership/ to access and complete the 2018 application form. We hope to see you in PE for the 2018 HELTASA Conference.