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Transformation at UCT

Transformation is one of the goals of the university's strategic plan which highlights what needs to be done to develop UCT in particular ways over the next 5 to 10 years.

The goal includes the following strands:

Towards non-racialism – redress, diversity, inclusiveness and the recognition of African voices

UCT's transformation goal has 4 elements:

  • making the university a more representative institution in terms of its academic and support staff, and of its student body
  • promoting enhanced intellectual diversity
  • transcending the idea of race
  • improving the institutional climate and and having an enhanced focus on our intellectual enterprise on African perspectives.

UCT is committed to the goal of non-racialism. A non-racial university is one where historical apartheid categories no longer have relevance to the probability that a student will be admitted or will pass; or to a staff member's likelihood of promotion.

A transformed university will be one in which we no longer hold stereotypical views of others based on their gender, race or disability. Such stereotypes may be dissolved because we have consciously overcome them and because the generalisations no longer apply.

A transformed university will be one in which the underlying historical power relationships, of which various forms of discrimination are symptoms, are fundamentally altered and equalised.

However, we are not there now, and so intervention along race, gender and disability lines remains necessary. We will therefore use instruments and measures of race only where they are necessary to promote transformation; and we will refrain from using racial categorisation whenever we can, to promote our ultimate goal, namely a community of scholars that is aware of the legacy of race and racism in South Africa but has moved beyond its effects.

Aside from the transformation of UCT, the university is profoundly concerned with transformation in the broader society and with issues of social justice.

Strategic objectives for transformation plan

The strategic objectives for the transformation of UCT include:

  • implementing policies that result in a change to the university's student and staff demography
  • to become a truly non-racial institution, and to reduce gender inequities at senior staff levels
  • making the university a place that is experienced by all its staff and students as being inclusive and nurturing
  • developing inclusive curricula and engaging with African voices.

Demographic change

Demographic change is necessary as a corrective action in respect of past injustices.

It is necessary to:

  • create the critical diversity of perspectives that will produce new insights
  • generate a healthier education environment
  • promote inclusiveness within the university
  • prepare students for a multicultural world of work.

UCT aims to have:

  • the full diversity of South Africa represented at UCT, weighted towards the disadvantaged communities of the Western Cape
  • a significant number of students and staff from other African countries and further afield.

With regard to our student equity profile, good progress has been made at the undergraduate level, but the profile of postgraduate enrolments and several specific undergraduate programmes remains predominantly white. We aspire to have a first-year intake which would be an average of national and Western Cape demographic profiles of university-eligible school leavers.

We will carefully monitor the applications by disabled students and implement measures to provide support where appropriate to make it easier for disabled students to gain access to UCT. We will also promote research on the impact of the national policies on inclusive education on the ability of disabled learners to access higher education.

Strengthening student support to improve course success rates

After the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC)'s audit of UCT in May 2005, the university developed a Quality Improvement Plan, which included a number of strategies to improve support for students.

These included:

  • strengthening the tutorial system by providing more effective training and monitoring of tutors
  • establishing mentoring and early warning systems
  • expanding the extended curriculum programmes
  • using VULA (an internal electronic web-based medium) to supplement lectures
  • establishing hot seats (a student’s weekly appointment with a tutor to discuss their progress)
  • vacation assignments
  • strengthening curriculum advice.

We have designed a web-based course-monitoring tool that integrates the provision of quantitative data with qualitative feedback from students to enable heads of departments to identify problem areas and to encourage staff to research, monitor and improve their teaching. While the performance gap between black and white students has diminished in recent years, significant challenges remain to redress continuing imbalances. We recognise the unevenness of the above interventions across the university and we will monitor and expand them.

This requires supporting staff in learning how to teach differently to new generations of students. The NSC curricula needs to be better understood and engaged with and academics require support in honing their teaching stills to multicultural and multilingual environments.

We need to be more systematic in promoting other forms of support that supplement academic interventions, for example, in the residences, social mentorship and integration into university culture and counselling.

In improving our staff demographic profile, the retention of staff will be a key element in our strategy – and the retention rate will be directly affected, not only by the institutional climate but also by the level of support that the university gives its young staff.

The recruitment and development interventions will be strengthened.

Inclusiveness: UCT as a place that is 'owned' by all its staff and students, and by the community

Only if we succeed in creating an affirming, positive environment for all will we be able to create the vibrant, diverse body of people that we need to be a truly great university.

Central to the task is being mindful of UCT's diversity of views and to promote an ethos of mutual respect. We need to focus on treating people equally, overcoming deep beliefs and conditioning that some are better than others, overcoming the stereotypes we hold, and valuing diversity and difference.

Central also in promoting an environment that is inclusive is the need for the university to strengthen its relationship with the communities of Cape Town that were historically excluded from UCT. The university is regarded by many in the city as a place that is either beyond their reach or too inhospitable.

If it is to transform itself into an inclusive space of learning and teaching, it has to change these perceptions.

This process includes:

  • the expansion of outreach work
  • social responsiveness activities in these communities
  • public relations
  • improved school liaison
  • highlighting the achievements of alumni from these communities.

Inclusive curricula and engagement with African voices

Transformation must also tackle what we learn, teach and research.

  • Students in post-apartheid SA must have a critical knowledge and understanding of the country's history and the experience of its citizens. The implications of this history must be made relevant to their fields of study and future work.
  • Students should gain an understanding of how ways of thinking and bodies of knowledge may be embedded in historical power relations. They should engage with debates on the extent to which, in some disciplines, the hegemony of Eurocentric approaches to knowledge, history, value systems and belief systems may have influenced or undermined African world views and perspectives.
  • Research and teaching should give more space and acknowledgement to African voices, and particularly African intellectuals, who should merit the same critical engagement as those from the west.