GCU powers ahead with South African Rail company

8 September 2017
Transet Freight Rail employees graduating

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has signed a new five-year strategic partnership to provide qualifications to Africa’s largest freight rail company and the fifth largest in the world, Transnet Freight Rail.

The international partnership with the University’s School for Work Based Education will expand its portfolio of sector-specific railway operations management programmes, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg.

The portfolio of flexible, work-based qualifications is an evolution of GCU’s successful 11-year partnership in the UK with the Institution of Railway Operators (IRO), which is focused on professionalising career pathways and necessary knowledge across operations in passenger-train operating companies and freight operating companies.

Transnet Freight Rail’s Chief Executive, Mr Ravi Nair, said “Transnet Freight Rail is proud of the strides it has made in empowering and upskilling its people. For a company that is in the process of reinventing itself, partnerships with institutions such as Glasgow Caledonian University are critical in ensuring that we remain current, relevant and responsive to the needs of our customers.”

Transnet Freight Rail, which specialises in the transportation of freight, is making its undergraduate BSc in Railway Operations Management and the new Masters Degree programme a core feature of its talent-management programme to achieve the company’s seven-year growth strategy. The company aims to expand and modernise the country’s rail, port and pipeline infrastructure to promote economic growth in South Africa. More than 1400 employees at middle, senior and management levels will enrol from 2017 to 2021.

GCU’s School for Work Based Education has led the consultation, design and evolution of this strategic partnership since 2011. A total 356 employees have gradated between 2013 and 2016 at Transnet Freight Rail’s Esselen Park, led by GCU’s Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE.

GCU’s Director of the School for Work Based Education, Fiona Stewart-Knight, said: “Through its mission for the Common Good, GCU is committed to providing access to accelerated, work-based pathways and accredited programmes to enable industry to grow. Transnet recognises the University’s aptitude for work-based, sector-led solutions and its commitment to empower both learners and employers. There is a shared commitment between the University and Transnet Freight Rail to transform lives through investment in education to the benefit of the individual, TFR, the South African economy, and for the Common Good. This transnational partnership epitomises the best of the University’s unique University-to-Business education strategy and our commitment to internationalisation. We look forward to starting a new chapter of our long-standing relationship with Transnet Freight Rail.”

Transnet Freight Rail has long held a vision for growth achieved through investment in sector-specific skills, particularly excellence in Railway Operations Management not just within Transnet but across the key freight-rail corridors of Africa where infrastructure and operational practices are shared and require to be commonly understood. Transnet's efficiency and performance is directly linked to the South African economy where railway operations skills are critical.

The new MSc in Railway Operations Management will grow strategic thinking and reflection in Executive and General Managers while creating opportunity for innovation and application of ideas through significant work-based projects aligned with key South African freight rail challenges. Transnet Freight Rail employs 30,000 staff and maintains an extensive rail network across South Africa that connects with other networks in the sub-Saharan region, with its rail infrastructure representing about 80% of Africa's total.