Diversifying the academy
- Wits University
Plans to transform the academic staff profile bear fruit.
It has been almost two years since the University adopted an Accelerated Transformation Programme, which focuses on eight priority areas. One of the most significant elements of the programme is diversification of the academy. A budget of R45 million was committed to making new appointments and allocating grants to enable African and Coloured staff to apply for promotion to the professoriate.
Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Principal, hosted a breakfast to recognise progress in this key component of the programme. Over 28 new appointments have been made (of which 60% are female) to diversify the academy, and over 40 enabling grants (of which 40% were awarded to female academics) have been made in the academy across the University’s five faculties. Five more appointments have been made through the Vice-Chancellor’s Equity Fund.
The Accelerated Transformation Programme was formulated approximately five months before the start of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which sought to confront institutional racism at South African universities. Congratulating the young academics at the breakfast, Professor Habib reflected on this journey and commented on the road ahead.
“Transforming this institution is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be an agenda of change that is going to be multi-year, maybe even decades. It’s not going to happen without agency – people who are interested in doing something – and that agency has to be in part yourselves,” he said. “You are the agents of your own liberation. You are the agents of your own change. If you are successful, new generations will follow.”
Habib expressed concern, however, at the misinformed beliefs around transformation.
“I worry about the thesis emerging in our country that excellence and transformation are exclusive goals. They are not; they are actually part of the same agenda.” The young academics, who have earned their PHDs in a variety of disciplines, are examples of this excellence, he said.
Apart from achieving multi-culturalism, Habib was excited that the new crop will enable the University to advance its teaching practices.
Wits has achieved successes in transforming the academy over the past decade. These include projects such as Growing Our Own Timber, championed by Wits’ former Vice-Chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa.