Traditionally, higher education was the “realm of objective knowledge. most effectively maintained and disseminated in institutions which are relatively autonomous” (Barnett 1990: 10). Members of these academic communities were able to interrogate the society with relative freedom and without fear victimisation. The scholarship of teaching and learning was therefore founded on the principles of collegiality, intellectual freedom and unrestricted knowledge exchange. However, new societal complexities such as globalisation, internationalisation and Africanisation have reconfigured the idea of higher education and the principles of intellectual autonomy. Seemingly, critical enquiry has become a relic of our distant past (Barnett, 1990; D’ Andrea & Gosling, 2005; Shore, 2010).
Higher institutions are therefore subjected to drastic restructuring in order to locate themselves within the new ideology of higher education. This has resulted in the commercialisation and massification of universities. In a relatively new South African university like CPUT, the meaning of higher education is still uncertain and confusing. The university is not only grappling with the politics of globalisation and internationalisation, it is also struggling to forge an identity as an agent of transformation in postapartheid South Africa. These challenges have impacted on its institutional policies on research, teaching and learning. Mindful of the new vision of universities and its effects on teaching and learning, we cannot ignore the disturbing fact that CPUT students lack the “cultural and social capital to make the transition into higher education” (D’Andrea & Gosling 2005: 102). The mandate and moral responsibility of academics in this institution are to help socialize these students into higher education and prepare them for the transition into the place of work. This means providing them with critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as nurturing them into innovative and creative thinkers, over and above other specialised skills. The most suitable space for the inclusion and teaching of these skills at CPUT is in courses like Communication.