College of Law and Management Studies

PhD graduate, Dr Thami Mchunu’s research offers unique insights into systems thinking within the student support sector.

The study, which was prompted by annual disruptions at South Africa’s Higher Education Institutions, advocates for the adoption of a systems approach to unpack and investigate the dynamism of student support services in Higher Education.

‘The South African Higher Education system is a messy and complex situation which cannot be adequately improved by a linear, rigid approach. Students generally regard Higher Education Institutions as all-inclusive, but the services that they receive are not as holistic as they are supposed to be,’ explained Mchunu.

The research which was supervised by Professor Kriben Pillay and Professor Nqabomzi Gawe was conducted at three South African universities.

‘If a systems approach were to be harnessed properly, institutions would be more conscious of the importance of feedback mechanisms which are in line with being proactive in response to environmental issues. This approach emphasises the importance of viewing a Higher Education Institution as a whole that works towards the same goals, instead of an entity with separate parts,’ said Mchunu.

As an employee in student support services, Mchunu is looking forward to incorporating his newly acquired knowledge to enhance his career.

‘In view of the in-depth research that went into my study, I will be in a better position to engage with authority on pertinent topics and, therefore, make a meaningful contribution to improved relationship management in Higher Education. Suggestions for future research include a country-wide study that would play an important role in integrating systems thinking into Higher Education from a common guiding framework,’ he said.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo
Photograph: Supplied