UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA
UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

UCT issues statement supporting vice-chancellor

By Opinion Time of article published Oct 4, 2020

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Following media criticism of the pace of transformation at UCT under the stewardship of Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, senior leaders of the university issued a statement on Friday in support of her vision for the institution.

The statement reads:

“Professor Phakeng came into office and presented a vision based on the triple pillars of excellence, transformation and sustainability.

“Under her leadership, a number of initiatives have been put in place to specifically accelerate the transformation of UCT’s academic staff profile.

“In the area of postgraduate education, which is the path to a possible academic career, under the leadership of Professor Phakeng, UCT made an investment of R50150000 in 2019, of which, R15000000 was made available to ensure students previously on financial aid are supported at Honours level.

“The Honours award in 2018 was R9920000 (an increase in 2019 of R5080000) to close the gap between undergraduate financial aid (NSFAS) and Honours funding. The model was extended in 2019 to the Master’s and Doctoral students, and the university contributed to the financial aid packages to a total value of R16550000.

“This support assisted in funding 165 Doctoral students, 319 Master’s students and 293 Honours students; 48% of this cohort are black students.

“In 2019, UCT launched the first Vice-Chancellor Research Excellence Award to recognise the most academically excellent UCT Master’s and Doctoral students who are registered for research degrees.

“One hundred students (of which 45% are black students) were awarded full-cost funding and a research award to the value of R5000.

“UCT has also created an Employment Equity Fund, which has been used to create additional positions for black academics. Since Professor Phakeng came into office, 11 appointments have been made on this fund.

“These extraordinary three-year appointments are structured such that the appointees can transition into positions funded by the university budget.

“UCT, like other South African universities, is an active participant of the nGAP programme, funded by both the Department of Higher Education and university funds. This programme targets early-career black academics and enables them to complete their PhDs while in full-time employment.

“So far, UCT has received 27 posts, 21 of which are filled and six are currently advertised.

“Specifically, in the area of supporting women researchers, in 2018, Professor Phakeng launched the For Womxm by Womxn research grants to create more opportunities for womxn. These grants focus on training postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows, with an emphasis on building capacity among black South African women and transgender researchers.

“The Next Generation Professoriate Programme specifically supports the promotion of mid-career black and female UCT academics. This mid-career initiative is funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Fund.

“It is true, UCT has far too low a number of African South African professors. But, under Professor Phakeng’s leadership, we have been moving in addressing the pipeline. Between 2019 and 2020, UCT has made a number of academic appointments at associate professor level and below, the majority of which are black.

“For example, in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, out of 17 appointments, 10 were black, in the Faculty of Commerce, out of 62 academic appointments, 43 were black, in the Faculty of Humanities, out of 25 academic appointments, 18 were black, in the Faculty of Science, out of 10 academic appointments, five were black, and in the Faculty of Law, out of six academic appointments, four were black.

“In the area of changing institutional culture, during Phakeng’s term, a survey on inclusivity was organised under the auspices of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation.

“The outcomes of this survey are being used to develop specific interventions related to institutional culture.

“There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of transformation at UCT.

“Most of this work is ongoing.

We are under no illusions about the distance between our objectives and where we are in relation to the demographic transformation of our academic staff, but we know that we have made significant progress and we have every confidence that we will continue doing so under the leadership of Professor Phakeng.

Deputy Vice-Chancellors: Professor Loretta Feris, Professor Sue Harrison, Associate Professor Lis Lange Chief Operating Officer: Dr Reno Morar Deans: Associate Professor Alan Cliff, Professor Danwood Chirwa, Professor Alison Lewis, Professor Maano Ramutsindela, Associate Professor Linda Ronnie, Associate Professor Shose Kessi

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