Postgraduate Communication Design Education in South Africa: Challenges and opportunities



Media & Communications Design


  • postgraduate studies, capacity-building


The study qualitatively explored the local communication-design-education landscape and identified the structures, nature, challenges and role players. Theoretical models with the potential to guide the development of postgraduate design education were analysed. These are the Mode 1, 2 and 3 models, Innovation Triple, Quadruple and Quintuple Helix models, as well as research approaches that have the potential to better align academia with industry, such as practice-based and practice-led research, recognition of prior learning and work-integrated learning.

One of the possibilities to increase capacity at postgraduate levels is to work closely with the design industry, and the study, therefore, gauged the perceptions, attitudes and needs of designers in industry about postgraduate education. The findings confirmed the gap between industry and academia, with industry seeing the main role of academia as the provider of entry-level designers. No alignment between postgraduate degrees and designer’s career paths exist, and academic research is not seen as a valid or accessible source of knowledge.

Key findings and insights about the educational landscape, the theoretical models and the perceptions and needs of designers in industry formed the foundation for the development of a conceptual framework. The frame-innovation approach, a problem-solving method based on the processes used by expert designers, was used to direct the development of a framework that offers various possibilities. These possibilities take the widening domain of design into consideration through the conceptualisation of an open, collaborative space that would allow for the different interests of academia, industry, society and ecology and flexible research approaches.

The contribution of the study is, therefore, the creation of an evidence-based consolidated framework that is systemic and has practical value for future development and implementation; that may increase capacity and potentially align industry and academia beyond entry-level supply.

Keywords: capacity-building, challenges, postgraduate studies, communication design


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