College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

UKZN Launches New BSc Degree

UKZN recently held a virtual launch of a new degree, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Earth Observation (EO) which will be taught for the first time in 2022 on the University’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

The three-year degree within the Discipline of Geography in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, aims to produce graduates with the ability to integrate theory and application of geospatial technologies and to build high-level theoretical and practical skills.

Professor John Odindi, from the Discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, unpacked the contents of the degree for the audience and the proceedings were facilitated by Corporate Relations’ Acting Director of University Relations, Ms Hazel Langa.

Odindi explained that GIS is a computer system to capture, store, check and display data related to positions on the earth’s surface. Earth Observation, also known as remote sensing, involves gathering information on the physical, chemical and biological systems of planet earth without making physical contact.

He said the University decided to start the programme due to increased demand for skilled personnel in GIS and EO. Odindi said there has been a rapid improvement in sensor configurations. The increase in the number of satellites and sensors, which has led to private sector entities coming on board, has seen increasing volumes of data. Furthermore, improved computing technology has facilitated increased adoption of GIS EO information. While GIS courses are offered in South Africa, none provide a holistic programme in geospatial analysis.

The entrance requirements for the degree are a minimum of 30 National Senior Certificate points, with Core Maths at Level 5 and English, Life Orientation and Physical Science/Life Science/Agricultural Science all above Level 4. Odindi said the BSc is “commonly” offered to students who pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects but students have been accepted with other subjects.

The first year of the degree will introduce students to a broad range of subjects including computer science, maths, physics, environmental science, geography, statistics and biology. The programme is multidisciplinary at the beginning, with specialisation at second- and third-year level.

Langa said the University is very proud of the work done by academics and researchers to prepare this new offering. She encouraged prospective students to work hard and aim to achieve higher than the required 30 APS score to increase their chances of joining the University.

A question and answer session followed to respond to queries from graduates in the industry, prospective students, Grade 11 and 12 learners, parents, principals, educators and alumni.

Responses were provided by Odindi and Langa with assistance from Public Relations Manager in the College, Dr Sally Frost and Mr Vijay Ramballie from the University’s Schools Liaison team.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied and courtesy of European Space Agency.