Unit for Continuing Education a constant in providing upskilling opportunities

Time is a commodity that does not enjoy equal distribution. What time you have should be optimised, especially in a fast-paced world where the continuous evolution of one’s skills is necessary to stay relevant in the workplace. We live in a world where stagnation is detrimental to our futures. This is where the Unit for Continuing Education (UCE) at the North-West University (NWU) serves to bridge the gap between where we currently are, the time at our disposal and where we want to be.

Professor Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor of the NWU, explains why the UCE is a crucial cog in the NWU wheel.

Prof, how does the UCE fit into the greater NWU structure?

“The UCE is the strategic partner for faculties to support continuous professional development (CPD) through short learning programmes. Through our interactive website and course catalogue (https://learn.nwu.ac.za/) clients can find comprehensive course information and registration dates and details. Short courses can be offered through different modes of delivery to cater for market-specific needs.”

Why, would you say, is the UCE an indispensable part of the NWU’s makeup?

“The fast-changing world of work requires people to learn new skills on the go. Through the UCE, short courses can serve a range of social and educational purposes, including improving or refreshing participants’ knowledge and skills in a particular field, continuing professional development, learning to use technology, personal fulfilment, social development and good citizenship. Short courses provide flexible, ‘just-in-time’ and ‘just-enough’ learning to meet specific needs, master new knowledge and competencies, facilitate the adoption of innovation and change, and provide for personal and professional development.

“The corporate world requires workers to learn new skills all the time. Driven by automation and AI, job descriptions change and some roles become obsolete, while new skills are needed. Therefore, lifelong learning is a priority and has become an enabler for thriving in the workplace. Attending a short course is made easy through the services offered by the UCE.

“In many professional industries, a number of CPD courses must be completed for career advancement or licensing. CPD courses are, for example, required by the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the South African Medical Association, the South African Council of Educators, the Engineering Council of South Africa and the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa, to name a few.”

Do you think non-formal programmes at universities are sometimes undervalued?

“Formal qualifications as well as non-formal learning programmes play an important role in ensuring that people can keep up with the demands of the workplace. Short courses are often taken by people to broaden their skills in areas outside their formal qualifications.”

How is the UCE geared towards meeting critical skills needs?

“Through market research and our internal quality assurance processes, we can develop short courses for a specific target market. Through the collaborative effort of academics in the faculties and tailor-made support from UCE, the NWU can promise quick delivery at any time and in any place.”

Why are you excited about what the future holds for the UCE?

“I am very excited about the online learning capabilities that enable participants to attend a course at their own pace, at a convenient time. The UCE has made great strides in enhancing its service to internal and external clients through automation and integrated systems. The registration, payment, student support on the learning management system and certification will soon be done through an integrated system, eliminating manual processes and improving the service delivery to our clients. Digital certificates will also be made available in the near future.”

Are there any misconceptions about the UCE that you would like to address?

“The UCE has transformed from a unit that offers short learning programmes on a scheduled contact basis to a unit that can offer short courses in various modalities: online, hybrid, facilitator-led, self-driven and contact, depending on the needs of the client. Although the UCE has a register of approved short courses that can be offered, it is also possible to develop and create customised learning programmes based on client needs.”


It is evident that self-directed learning is key for professionals to unlock future possibilities and enhance career success. Through the courses offered by the university’s faculties in collaboration with the UCE, the NWU is an ideal partner to make lifelong learning an exciting journey.


Submitted on Wed, 03/08/2023 - 15:11