A systems approach to the evaluation of an academic department as a service provider at a University of Technology.
Empirical studies have established that the services sector has contributed significantly to the growth and development of world economies and is today the largest and fastest growing sector globally. Testimony to the rise in the supply of services is the fact that the services sector contributes more to the global output and employs more people than any other sector. It has been widely accepted that education belongs to the category of service industries, resulting in the importance of rendering a quality service. In South Africa, although education is the recipient of the major portion of national expenditure, government funding to tertiary institutions has been on the decline, prompting institutions of higher learning to develop innovative methods to maintain financial stability. One of the strategies has been to attract and retain national and international students by the rendering of a quality service. The purpose of this research is to provide a conceptual framework for gaining a better understanding of evaluation of an academic department as a service provider at a university of technology. The task is viewed as complex as a university is regarded as a highly bureaucratic organisation intertwined with other systems, subsystems and various stakeholders. An investigation into the current state of practice and research into evaluation of academic departments is reported. A review of the research issues on service organisations and their applicability to tertiary institutions is presented. The framework was developed upon principles of Multimethodology, using a combination of the strengths of Critical Systems Thinking, Soft Systems Methodology, Viable System Method, System Dynamics, Work System Method and the Analytic Hierarchy Process by Saaty. This framework is applied to a case study at an academic department of the Durban University of Technology.