UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng  Photo: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)
UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng Photo: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)

UCT in bid to improve black representation

By Lisa Isaacs Time of article published Apr 24, 2019

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This goal emerged in the university’s recently released 2018 Transformation Report.

The university compiles a report on transformation every year, to help more accurately frame the thinking about challenges and experiences at UCT to better accomplish real change. 

The 2018 report not only focuses on demographics but also addresses the need for institutional culture change, which is grounded in six key areas: students and staff access support and success, place and space, institutional responses to discrimination and harassment, community engagement and partnership with community, owning African identity, and curriculum support including the development of inclusive classrooms.

The report details UCT’s new Employment Equity Plan, valid until 2021.

Other than setting new numerical goals and targets, the plan has identified affirmative action measures to address barriers to entry, promotion, progression and succession.

The total academic staff complement (from assistant lecturers upwards) comprises 25% of the total permanent workforce, that is,1337 of 5 262 permanent and T2 fixed-term employees.

As of October 2018, only 26% of academic staff were categorised in the “generic” black South African category, (the university defines as “black South Africans, coloured, Indian and Chinese”) and only 9% of the overall academic staff complement was black South African.

“The university promoted 13 black South African academics in December 2018 - the culmination of many years of hard work on the part of academic staff. However, this remains a challenge,” the report notes.

At the senior management level, only 6% of the staff complement is black South African.

Of the 27 907 students enrolled at UCT last year, about 25% were classified as black South Africans, 45% classified as “generic black”, 22% classified as white students, 15% international students, and 18% who identified racially as “other”.

Women constituted just less than 53% of the 2018 student body (14 767) and 14 individuals identified as transgender or other gender.

“The fact that we as a university, now 25 years after the dawn of democracy, forced to debate what a transformed UCT should be like, is concerning,” vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said in the report.

Her view was that transformation has, until the #MustFall movement, been dealt with as a matter of compliance rather than a matter of change in structures.

“I also think transformation was regarded as the antithesis of excellence, rather than as something that we need to do to ensure that our excellence is sustainable.

“Transformation is not just about numbers and the transfer of power from one elite to another. It is not just about appointing black people in positions previously occupied by white people.

“Our experience shows that, if we only focus on the transfer of power, then the people will continue to feel powerless, marginalised and disillusioned.

“While changing the social composition of power is important, we have to realise that it is not sufficient - we also need to transform the structures as well as ways of doing, knowing and being,” Phakeng said.

Cape Times

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