Under the rubric of the Human and Social Dynamics Grand Challenge, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is piloting the Community-University Partnership Programme (CUPP) with four rural-based universities, namely: Fort Hare, Limpopo, Venda and Zululand. The selection of these institutions is deliberate in that they are not just independent institutions of learning, but are important organs of civil society and form part of a matrix of key institutions generating or potentially able to generate ideas and policy options which can contribute to shaping social, economic, and scientific development in their respective rural communities.
Focusing on these rural universities also aligns with the current Council on Higher Education (CHE) initiative on rural-based universities, providing the opportunity to arrive at a better understanding of what is termed ‘constructive differentiation’ (Council for Higher Education Roundtable: 2008). Rural universities provide a geographical locus within which to understand community engagement and in particular, community-university partnerships. In essence, DST’s CUPP underscores the social compact of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and the need for HEIs to become more socially responsive and more accountable to society.
By piloting the CUPP with these four institutions the objective is to develop a tool for becoming more responsive to community aspirations, and for addressing the problem of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality that characterises South African society.