College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Professionalization of Undergraduate Academic Teaching (PUAT)

Considering the strategic importance of quality teaching and curriculum design at the undergraduate level among university staff for infusing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in course curricula, the project aims to create and provide capacity-building workshops, resources and opportunities that foster innovative and effective pedagogical practices among academic staff in multiple academic disciplines in South Africa.


The South African undergraduate higher education landscape has changed considerably since the 1994 transition to democracy. South Africa is also committed to aligning itself with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Much of South African aspirations for social and economic transformation is vested in the work and roles of academic staff. Therefore, Higher Education institutions have a crucial role to play for the implementation of SDGs, which cover a very wide range of specific areas such as agriculture, health, gender equality, water and sanitation, energy, industry and innovation, infrastructure. Teaching and curriculum innovation will have to be targeted in order to implement SDGs to South Africa’s universities.

Although the number of academic staff holding a doctorate falls below 50%, academic staff members are usually recruited mainly on the strengths of their discipline expertise and less so on their teaching preparedness and teaching skills. Similarly, the undergraduate content of teaching is largely textbook-based with absence of student-driven activities. A recent evaluation report reveals that the subject content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge of most South African university staff is poor and that this is a major cause of inadequate learner achievement and mismatch with employability needs (Breier and Herman, 2017). Therefore, there is need to integrate multiple tools for innovative interdependent learning techniques in higher education to foster teaching competence/skills, and tackle issues related to SDGs.

Most of teaching methodology applied, especially in undergraduate teaching focuses on lecturing, with very little use of problem-based learning strategies, place-based pedagogy, utilization of ICTs as enabling pedagogical tools, and other innovative teaching/learning tools suitable for curriculum reconstruction to address sustainability challenges in South Africa. Therefore, academic staff involved should be not only qualified in teaching, but also be adequately trained in an ongoing basis  in order to remain agile in an ever-changing Higher Education environment.

The proposed project addresses the following national priorities in South Africa Category 1: Modernization of curricula in multiple academic disciplines through capacity building of university staff in the prioritized subjects, such as sciences, agricultural sciences, environmental sciences, in innovative teaching and learning tools, methodologies and pedagogical approaches, including learning outcomes and ICT-enabled practices.

UKZN Co-Ordinator

At UKZN, Professor Bala Pillay serves as both the Institutional and South African Co-ordinator of PUAT. The project has been supported by the 4 College Deans of Teaching and Learning, as well as Academic and Professional staff members.

Prof Bala Pillay

Prof Bala Pillay

Institutional and South African Co-ordinator


PUAT is co-ordinated by FREDERICK UNIVERSITY (FU- MESOKELEAS LTD) with the following Partners:

  • University of Crete, Greece
  • RCE Crete, Greece
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • University of Venda, South Africa
  • Rhodes University, South Africa
  • HELTASA, South Africa