Opening Gates: Reflecting on the liaison role of DEFSA at a tertiary level



Design Education Research


  • defsa, collaboration

The paper reflects on how DEFSA has delivered on the Forum’s first aim, with specific focus on the liaison activities that takes place at a tertiary level. This aim, as documented in the DEFSA Constitution, reads “Ensuring that liaison is maintained between relevant primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education in matters pertaining to design education, between technikons, universities, technical colleges, private institutions, education authorities and the design industry” (DEFSA, 2007a).

This paper focuses on the manner in which liaison has been maintained over the past 17 years, through the use of the DEFSA conferences, between tertiary institutions and between similar design disciplines. The liaison activities are associated with gates of opportunities that are opened and as a result connect people, institutions and design disciplines nationally and abroad. The reflection is conducted over three time periods; past, present and future.

The first time period described as the Technikon phase, reflects on the past history and liaisons that took place from DEFSA’s inception in 1991 to the announcement of the higher education institutional mergers in 2002. The second period reflects on the present, which includes the merger period. This phase described as the Higher Education merger and restructuring phase, reflects on the impact of the merger, the restructuring of the design education landscape, design programme offerings and the role that DEFSA fulfilled during this period. Lastly, the third period presents a future projection by reflecting on the current expectations and challenges that impact on the future of DEFSA.

To date, no reflection or evaluation of the role and function of DEFSA has been conducted. This study is therefore limited to information that could be obtained from DEFSA Executive Committee Minutes, conference records and Discipline Workgroup reports. However the lack and absence of well documented data impacted negatively on the literature survey that formed the basis of this study.

The reflection indicates that DEFSA has established a well connected network of design educators across southern Africa. The restructuring and transformation of the higher education landscape had a visible impact on the offering of regular conferences and a reduction in the institutional membership. The Forum will have to reinstate their effective network in order to be acknowledged as a worthy and effective promoter of design education. 

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