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Conceptualising postgraduate training in Biotechnology at Universities of Technology. Annabel Fossey Biotechnology Central University of Technology, Free State, Park Street 1, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 9300. Introducing Biotechnology. Biotechnology is:

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Conceptualising postgraduate training

in Biotechnology at

Universities of Technology

Annabel Fossey


Central University of Technology, Free State,

Park Street 1, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 9300

Introducing Biotechnology

  • Biotechnology is:

  • Modern word for a practice that is

  • thousands of years old

  • Biotechnology gave us our first beer

  • Plant and animal breeding are older technologies

  • Today  sophisticated field

Introducing Biotechnology

  • Biotechnology is:

  • Interdisciplinebetween Biological Sciences

  • and Technology

  • Any technique that uses living organisms or

  • substance from those organisms

  •  To make or modify a product

  •  Used by humans, animals, plants,

  • microorganisms ...

  •  Solve problems in many different industries

Biotechnology Industry

  • Biotechnology industries are too diverse

  • and too numerous to list

  • Industries range from

  • Enzyme production  indigo dye for denims

  • to

  • Production of genetically modified

  • pigs for xenotransplantation

Biotechnology Achievements






lens cleaning

Paper and pulp

Lens cleaners


Biotechnology Achievements



Yeast produce hepatitis antigen based vaccine

Spodoptera insect cells produce human papilloma virus vaccine

African Green monkey

kidney cells


influenza vaccine

Biotechnology Achievements

Genetic Testing (Forensic)

DNA profiling















  • To propose curricular framework for:

  • An Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Biotechnology, and

  •  A Master of Biotechnology

What the Government says

  • 2003: Minister of Education announced that some technikons

  • would be designated “universities of technology”

  • Draw upon a greater diversity of people as students

  • Educational map will be more diverse

  • Provide career-orientated learning programmes

  • Contribute more meaningful technology transfer and international competitiveness

  • Respond to the needs of industry, community and society

What the Government says

  • Universities of Technology (UoTs):

  • Technology is the qualifying factor inherent in all academic activities

  • Therefore, characteristics of UoTs:

  • Research-informed

  • Curriculum around graduate profile defined by industry and professions

  • Focus on strategic/applied research

  • Focus on vocational/professional education

  • Technological capabilities as important cognitive skills

Kagisano 2010

What the Government says

  • Technology at a UoT:

  • Should teach an understanding of the application

  • of the subject in the real world

  • Students should be encouraged to:

  • Reflect on broader issues of technology

  • Consider impact on society

  • Be exposed to a wide range of disciplines

  • Deal management issues relating to technology

  • Work in teams

  • Be able to discuss, debate policies relation to technology

Kagisano 2010

What the World-of-work says

Biotechnology industry:

Requires innovation/creativity in all stages of the process pipeline

DNA technologies

- Forensic profiling

- Diagnosis


- Enzymes

- Pharmaceuticals



Applied research










Societal benefit


What the World-of-work says

  • Industry related requirements for graduates:

  •  Provide innovative solutions

  • Have technological knowledge

  • Have creative capability

  •  Have the ability to adjust to the evolving industry

What the World-of-work says

  • Graduate employability skills requirements:

  • Oral/written communication

  • High level learning skills

  • Problem solving

  • Decision making

  • Affective skills and traits such as responsibility, a positive attitude, interpersonal skills and the ability

  • to work both in a team and independently

New Education Landscape

  • Knowledge and innovation contribute to wealth and welfare:

  • Postgraduate education gains prominence

  • Postgraduates essential to drive innovation

  • in modern societies

  • DST adopts the 10-Year Innovation plan (2008-2018):

  • Helps drive SA to knowledge-based economy

  • Outlines: “Farmer to Pharma” value chain to

  • strengthen bio-economy

  • SA must become a leader in biotechnology

  • and pharmaceuticals

Designing a Curriculum in Biotechnology

  • Answer questions:

  • At what level should the programme be pitched?

  • What are the educational objectives?

  • What graduate attributes should be developed?

  • How will the curriculum accommodate flexibility?

  • How will the curriculum be delivered?

Pitching a Biotechnology Programme

  • Rapidly changing industry

  • Ever widening scale of applications

Create a workforce capable of:

  • Understanding of / and working in a range of industries

  • Technically skilled

  • Strong life science background

UoT’s are perfectly positioned to train this workforce

Pitching a Biotechnology Programme

  • Foundation laid at universities – four years

  • Bachelor’s and Honours degrees (equivalent)

? Do not focus on applications

? Do not focus on how the industry works

Appropriate to pitch qualifications at:

 5th year post grade 12

Educational Objectives

Need to accommodate students from diverse backgrounds

  •  Understand of the nature of the biotechnology

  •  Enhance mastery of biotechnology subject matter

  •  Enhance practical skills

  •  Develop scientific reasoning

  •  Develop business acumen relating to biotechnology industry

  •  Develop transferable/employability skills

  •  Develop entrepreneurial and innovative skills

  • Understand ethical principles relating to biotechnology

Identifying Graduate Attributes

SAQA’a the learning achievements at level 9 as a template:

Understand applications in field

Design, creative methods, processes,


Use a wide range of specialised skills

Identifying Graduate Attributes




Proposing a Biotechnology Curriculum

  • Need a flexible curriculum to allow for rapid developments

  • Follow an integrated approach to stimulate intellectual curiosity and enhanced problem-solving skills

  • Elective curriculum

  • Core curriculum

Proposing a Biotechnology Curriculum

Jerome Bruner’s Spiral Model:

At each level – subject matter at greater depth

Major focus - industrial applications

  • Curriculum framework

  • Enhance disciplinary knowledge

  • Enhance technical acumen

  • Include supplementary knowledge - business, legislation and ethics

Integrated approach to the curriculum

Greater intellectual curiosity

Improved attitude towards education

Enhanced problem-solving skills

Proposing a Biotechnology Curriculum

Core curriculum

Elective curriculum

  • Biotechnology disciplinary topics

  • Select from a list of about

  • 8 topics, for example:

  • EnzymologyGenetically modified organismsStem cell technologyImmunotechnologyPlant tissue culture techniquesCloning technology

  • Forensic technology

Business and legislative content

Biotechnology practical laboratories

Ethics relating to biotechnology

Research project and

mini dissertation (20 000 words)

Postgraduate Qualifications

Two postgraduate qualifications

Master of Biotechnology

Research project and mini dissertation

Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Biotechnology

Business Legislation Ethics







Business Legislation Ethics


Graduate Attribute Development

  • Developed during the mode of delivery

  • Delivery

  • No formal teaching (or very little)

  • E- learning

  • Debates / presentations

  • Seminars / proposals / business proposals

  • Guest speakers

Curriculum Mapping Process

  • Define purpose of the qualification

  • Components of curriculum outlined

  • Learning objectives detailed

  •  Specify graduate attributes to develop

  • ‘At the completion of this module you will be able to ...’

  • Devise learning activities and assessment criteria

  • 4. Review of learning objectives, learning activities and assessment criteria

  •  Use panel of specialists

    5. Construct student guide


  • These qualifications should provide the students with:

  • Subject knowledge to support a career in biotechnology

  • Technical understanding of biotechnology

  • An understanding of the business of biotechnology

  • Ability to “think outside the box”

  • Ability to adapt to the evolving industry

  • Transferable skills required by industry

Thank You

Annabel Fossey