Enriching Minerals Engineering Education through Industry Partnership
Over the past decade, minerals tertiary education institutions in most countries have been struggling to be self-sustainable. The sustainability of minerals education is a worldwide problem and not merely limited to Namibia. A key aspect to enriching minerals engineering education while simultaneously leading to sustainability is establishing symbiotic smart partnerships with industry. Most traditional universities have always been under criticism for being ‘ivory towers’ focusing on teaching and learning and research with limited engagement with industry. The risks associated with poor stakeholder relations and the opportunities provided by constructive ones are usually better understood by the private and financial institutions. Given the importance of industry engagement to universities’ reputation and success, there are benefits in developing a more coordinated, responsive and proactive approach, and learning from other sectors. This study investigated how the Department of Mining and Process Engineering (DMPE) at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) has been enriching its minerals education programmes by improving its industry’s engagement to ensure the sustainability of its minerals education programmes. The DMPE is a fledgling department with the potential to contribute significantly to the future of Namibia and her Vision 2030 skills imperatives. The environment that has been created fosters excellence and it is one where both staff and students work in harmony. The major strategies employed by the department in enriching its minerals engineering programmes were setting up regular industry meetings, offering training and consultancy services to industry, hosting symposiums and ensuring that final year projects are linked to addressing industry challenges, invitation of industry guest lecturers, and setting up and industry mentorship systems between final year students and engineers from industry. This has had the overall benefit of delivering well rounded graduates ready for the industry. This kind of approach has the advantage of bringing academic activities in close contact with the needs of industry. Over the years through industry partnerships, the department has benefitted from laboratory equipment donations, guest lecturers and mentors from the local mining industry. One key finding of this study is that there is a serious need to involve industry in all facets of the university’s functions from teaching and research to community service.