BC iTversity, an inclusive integrated concept for effective regional development; an example from South Africa

Enrico Jacobs
Belgium Campus iTversity

Kris Willems
Belgium Campus iTversity

Michael Joris
Belgium Campus iTversity

South Africa is at a crossroad. On the one hand, South Africa finds itself in a leading position on the continent with the most advanced economy. On the other, stagnating economic growth combined with high unemployment (29%) and socio-economic inequality (49.2% living in poverty) form serious challenges. This is mainly due to the human capital gap between a large demand for high-skilled workers and an oversupply of unskilled workers.

Job seekers must possess the appropriate skills demanded by the modern local and global environments. Poor education and skills mismatch contribute to unemployment and as a result companies are allocating large training budgets to enable their existing staff and new comers to acquire the necessary skills and qualifications This should not be the case; research indicates that the challenges faced by the South African industry and community indeed need specific solutions. This includes elements that are largely ignored in traditional “textbook driven” traditional approaches; what is needed in a country such as South Africa is the element of specific added value. Universities should not only focus on knowledge and general skills, but also looking at character development and the promotion of metacognition for durable personal empowerment. All these have to be included in the educational paradigm needed to master 21st Century skills, to enable sustainable lifelong learning, and to develop a growth mindset and (academic) leadership.

Fully aware of South Africa’s situation, Belgium Campus (BC) ITversity operates an integrated concept of knowledge valorisation through the Participative Development Model for Education (PDM) and the Collaborative Innovation Model for Regional Development. It offers students a learning journey throughout the value chain of knowledge valorisation, acquiring global competences and ready to face the SDG challenges.

Both models offer an outcome-centred ecosystem driven by co-creative collaboration within the Quadruple Helix. Through local, national and international multi-disciplinary and intercultural collaboration an environment is created to think globally and act locally, leveraging sustainable regional development.

The educational model offers a relevant curriculum driven by entrepreneurial learning. These include experiential learning and knowledge-transfer opportunities in a Learning Factory environment through action-based learning, student-to-student learning, rapid prototyping, industry internships and internationalisation at home.

Building upon the PDM, BC ITversity has established Bothlale Village (BV). It stands for an innovation ecosystem model nurturing a co-creative collaborative approach that equitably involves all stakeholders, enabling them to interact and participate in the full spectrum of knowledge valorisation of ICT technologies and applications, with the goal of creating and capturing new value, and consequently impacting on socio-economic transformation and growth.

BC ITversity is where teaching, knowledge valorisation, and societal engagement are intertwined, with leadership, governance and external stakeholder involvement as the key ingredients, which has resulted in a continuous synergy and dynamic exchange with all stakeholders, moulding skill-apt students who can face the challenges of a rapidly changing world.