Prof Martin Oosthuizen, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, says students should be at the forefront of everything that is done in teaching and learning. “Students must be taught to work and live in a multicultural society. They must embrace diversity and see it as an asset, not a threat.” He believes that the only universities that will prosper in future will be those that offer an excellent teaching and learning environment.

The NWU is bidding farewell to our deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning. Prof Martin Oosthuizen has made a lasting impact that will ensure the university produces well-rounded graduates for many years to come. He reflects on his tenure at the NWU and the many highlights and challenges he encountered.


Although excited, Martin was initially overwhelmed by the mammoth task that lay ahead of him when he joined the NWU in June 2011. “It was a very complex environment with three unique campuses, each with their own history and academic profile in terms of staff and students and geographical location. I immediately saw the university’s potential to play a pivotal role in the quality of life and development needs of not only the North West Province but also southern Gauteng.”


His 21 years of experience at the former University of Port Elizabeth and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in institutional planning, quality management and theology enabled him to step up and successfully transform the NWU’s teaching and learning to a level of excellence that puts the NWU at the top of teaching and learning in the higher education sector.


Starting off in hot water


He found himself in hot water when he started at the NWU. “We had six months to complete the formal process of aligning all the university’s academic qualifications and programmes with the regulatory requirements of the Higher Education Qualification Framework. I was shocked when I realised that up to that point very little had been done to get the process started.”


Martin says it was this challenging time that proved to him what excellent work the staff of the NWU is capable of. “I was blessed with a very dedicated team at the Project Office and at Academic Support Services. This, together with the excellent cooperation of the faculties and a lot of hard work, ensured that we could make the deadline.”


From challenges to excellence


During the first two years of managing the NWU’s teaching and learning portfolio, Martin focused on the processes around systems, qualifications and the approval of academic programmes. “We had to do a lot to ensure clear and functional communication channels to promote the quality of our applications when applying for accreditation.”


He was well aware of the importance of developing systems to manage the teaching and learning portfolio. “In teaching and learning you need to have good records and information about all the programmes and qualifications. It is essential that all of these have been approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Council on Higher Education. A good system is also the platform from which you plan for the future and identify new opportunities.”


He says one of the highlights was the appointment of Christa North as executive advisor for planning and special projects in 2013. “With her guidance we were able to create an electronic system for programme approvals and managing all the applicable information relating to our Programme and Qualification Mix with which we could accurately compile data.” He says this valuable tool has taken the NWU to the forefront of the sector and helped them address all the gaps that were there in the beginning.


Riding off into the sunset


Martin says it is goodbye but not farewell. He would like to stay involved in teaching and learning at the NWU on a part-time basis. He would also like to be involved in national quality assurance projects.


He will be joining his family in Somerset West in the Western Cape.  “I’m looking forward to being with them.”


One would think that after facing the many demanding challenges that teaching and learning pose Martin would settle for a quiet retirement, but he says he also want to explore his adventurous side. He hopes to cycle from Cape Town to Cairo, and travel to many destinations, including St Petersburg in Russia and to Scandinavia to view the Northern Lights.