In the mist of these confusions and contestations and given that “education is not a service for a customer but an ongoing process of transformation of the participant” (Harvey 2002: 253), perhaps we need to redefine the role of Communication in a UoT like CPUT. Mindful of the mandate of the university and the changing vision of modern universities (Shore, 2010; D’Andrea & Gosling, 2005), Communication courses offer a unique opportunity to improve the professional and academic lives of South African students.
“Communication underpins all subjects in a university and the world of work is about communication. So Communication is a very important course in a university of technology like CPUT because it can enhance students’ academic and professional skills. It can enhance students’ ability to succeed in higher education because it introduces them to range of skills that other courses cannot. (Lecturer’s response)”
The excerpt above heralds the main interest of CPUT Communication courses: the enhancement of academic and professional skills. Here, the respondent opines that the central role of Communication is to prepare students for future academic challenges and for the world of work. In the context of CPUT, they provide “useful interventions . [and with the correct contents and teaching strategies, they can] create independent learners, and instill critical mindedness” (Ng’ambi & Johnston 2006: 244).
In the following quotations, the respondents also remind us about the slew of skills that Communication courses offer to CPUT students, dismissing some of the perceptions discussed above.
“For me I think the role of Communication tends to be confusing here at CPUT. But I believe it is critical course especially given the quality of students that we have. Communication is one of the few courses that help students with both professional and academic skills such as application of writing, oral presentation skills, social skills, teamwork skills, conflict management skills, academic literacy and professional writing skills. (Lecturer’s response)”
“.Well, Communication is a very useful tool in today’s world. In every business, you have to be able to communicate with other members within the business. Therefore you need those communication skills- Communication can help a student to prepare for his/her future. It can enhance our critical thinking skills. (Student response)”
Here, value of Communication is premised on the notion that the “deductive grammar models. [are] inadequate for the purposes of promoting communicative competence among” students (Grove 1999: 817). For these respondents Communication offers a suite of skills that can minimise students’ risk of failure and can place them at a competitive advantage in the professional world (Pineteh, 2010). These skills are also “vital to understanding how specific disciplines differentially influence learning and development” (Li, Long & Simpson1999: 46).