Helderberg College - Historical Overview - Helderberg College (1928- )

Helderberg College (1928- )

The new African Missionary College, as it was first called, opened in 1928 with two dormitories completed and plans for the construction of the administration building well under way. Apart from these, there were two staff cottages, farm sheds and outbuildings. The institution was renamed Helderberg College after the mountain towering protectively above it. Despite the depression, the total enrolment climbed to 154 by 1930, and has grown steadily ever since. Today there are more than 60 buildings on campus including the church, administration and lecture buildings, library, auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria, student centre, three-storey student residences, married students' flats, staff flats and homes, and separate church-operated primary and high schools.

The growth of the College is probably best reflected in the number of graduates which has increased from 8 in 1929 to an average of 40-60 a year. Many of these graduates have continued their studies in South Africa and abroad.

The academic growth of the College can be viewed from three perspectives: the course offerings, academic qualifications of staff, and library holdings.

A review of the course offerings of the past reveals periods of significant change and development. The first few years after 1928 saw a continuation of the courses offered at Spion Kop College. The staff were few in number but were well qualified, with the business manager, W B Commin, a chartered accountant. In the early thirties, courses were lengthened to three years, and course contents combined to best meet the needs of the church: Theological-Normal, Domestic Science-Normal, with Commercial-Normal being added in 1946. A two-year Bible Instructors' Course was also offered.

The first real major change in curriculum came in 1951 when the College became a senior college and, under the guidance of A J Raitt, started to offer the degree courses of the University of South Africa (UNISA) as part of the regular four-year diploma courses. Students could complete the requirements of the BA, BSc and BCom degrees within the four years. The UNISA connection served the College very well for the next 35 years with only minor adjustments to the curriculum. It included a recognised three-year primary teaching diploma in the eighties. The sixties saw a proliferation of diploma courses and some were lengthened and others shortened. A five-year theology programme was attempted, and even a pre-nursing course was published.

Graduation exercises became more formal with the change of status to senior college. The 1955 graduating class was the first to wear full academic regalia, including colours to represent the various fields of study. All subsequent classes followed suit and today it is part of the tradition and policy of the college.

The need for wider recognition and closer control over the curriculum led to the next major change under the leadership of Dr A O Coetzee in 1976 when an affiliation agreement was entered into with Andrews University (located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA), to offer the BTh (Bachelor of Theology) and BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) degrees. From this initial agreement, the affiliation was extended to the BA degree which could also include a four-year elementary teaching qualification. Agriculture offered as a two-year Associate of Science degree met a specific demand for a few years but was later phased out. The eighties saw the introduction of a wider number of business and secretarial diploma courses.

The escalating cost of post-graduate study overseas precipitated plans to offer such degrees at Helderberg College. In 1981, under the leadership of Dr D Birkenstock, the Andrews University affiliation was extended when the MA in Religion degree was first offered on campus. The programme was spread over four years with a quarter being taught each year. Starting with Drs Strand and Heppenstall, many lecturers from overseas made a real contribution to the ministerial force in Southern Africa. The post-graduate degree gave impetus to the rapid expansion of the library, and in 1983 the E G White Research Centre and Heritage Room were officially opened by Mrs Hedwig Jemison.

In 1997, under the leadership of David F Allen, an additional affiliation agreement was entered into with Southern Adventist University (located in Collegedale, Tennessee, USA). This affiliation provided alternative accreditation and academic recognition for the BBA degree, majoring in either accounting or management.

Changes in the South African education landscape subsequent to the first democratic elections in 1994 impacted directly on the College. In terms of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act (No. 58 of 1995) and the Higher Education Act (No. 101 of 1997), private institutions of higher learning were granted the opportunity of becoming fully accredited and registered providers of education, issuing their own degrees and diplomas. Those institutions whose qualifications were registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and that met the requirements of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Department of Education (DoE) have been able to take their place alongside the public sector institutions in providing nationally and internationally recognized programmes of study. Helderberg College, under the academic leadership of Gerald T du Preez, received such accreditation and registration in 2001. Students who enrolled for degree programmes for the first time in 2001 thus began a course of study culminating in a Helderberg College degree, backed by SAQA, the CHE and the DoE. Students transferring to other tertiary institutions or wishing to engage in post graduate study in South Africa are able to do so with ease, as there is a common registering body with controlled standards and criteria. In addition, the courses done at Helderberg College are accredited by AAA (Adventist Accrediting Association), which makes them transferable to any one of the more than 106 Seventh-day Adventist institutions worldwide.

The second perspective of the academic growth of the College has been the qualifications of the staff. From the start, the College has had well-qualified staff. In 1936, the small teaching staff had five teachers with masters' degrees, two with bachelors', and the remainder with recognised diplomas. The first teacher with a doctorate was H L Rasmussen who joined the staff in 1947 to teach history. In 1949 the principal, W E McClure, returned from furlough with a doctorate, as did F C Clarke, whose specialty was science. The offering of UNISA degrees on campus made it easier for a number of the staff to earn BA degrees and in many cases this led to post-graduate work. In the seventies there were up to five staff with doctorates. Some of the first lecturers to earn a doctorate at a South African University included Dr Hofni Joubert (in the late fifties) Dr Izak J van Zyl (in the seventies), with Dr Delyse Steyn being the first woman to achieve this. Helderberg College regards a master's degree as the minimum academic qualification for lecturers and through its staff development programme, encourages and assists the teaching faculty in upgrading their qualifications where needed with the objective of 50% of the teaching staff having their terminal degrees by 2011.

Until 1952, the library at Helderberg College was housed on the top floor of the Administration Building, from where it was moved to the more spacious location on the ground floor of Anderson Hall. The book holdings increased from 4 000 in 1936 to 7 000 in 1947. In 1981, the Pieter Wessels Library, occupying all three floors in the renovated Meade House, was opened officially. While K B Cronjé was director of library services, book holdings topped 50 000, besides many other materials such as periodicals, audiotapes and teaching materials. In the basement are the E G White Research Centre and the Heritage Room which opened in 1983 with Dr I J van Zyl as director. Through the SABINET link-up with all the major libraries in South Africa, the Pieter Wessels Library has been an invaluable asset not only to staff and students, but to users of these other libraries as well. The holdings have exceeded the 90 000 mark.

Read more about this topic:  Helderberg College, Historical Overview

Famous quotes containing the word college:

    I never feel so conscious of my race as I do when I stand before a class of twenty-five young men and women eager to learn about what it is to be black in America.
    Claire Oberon Garcia, African American college professor. As quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, p. B3 (July 27, 1994)