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Message from the Head of School

- Professor David Everatt

There are some interesting changes at the Wits School of Governance, all geared towards improving students' experiences at Wits.

The WSG, already the largest producer of postgraduate qualifications in our field, has further expanded our academic staff complement to help deliver our ambitious new curriculum that includes fundamental (compulsory) courses, themed modules and seminar-style electives. In the following stories you will meet some of the exciting new talented staff that have joined us in the last few months, taking the academic staff complement to some 26 academics, the largest the School has been. I am proud to welcome this diverse, multi-skilled and highly talented new colleagues at Lecturer and Senior Lecturer levels. 

We are in the latter stages of our first year of the new curriculum. We designed it with the student experience primary in our mind - the ability to select and tailor your own degree and academic experience. We are (as our Monitoring and Evaluation colleagues would remind us) ‘learning by doing’, as the challenges of hosting over 300 Master of Management students, in multiple modules and electives, have become apparent. By 2020, our ways of dealing with the challenges of delivering the curriculum will have been met, and WSG will be on a very good course into the future.

This will be undergirded by a growing suite of online offerings, at a Diploma level. The Council on Higher Education  recently approved the accreditation of the online PDM, which means that students will soon be able to complete the entire PDM online - it includes weekly webinars and other interactive features, so is far from a lonely or isolated experience - and the credits if appropriate should allow successful candidates to segue into applying for the Masters course. This was first mooted in our Quinquennial Review (QQR) of 2016/7, and is now a reality. The commitment of key staff members, notably Adjunct Professor Alex van den Heever and Murray Cairns, with powerful high-quality support from our partners at the Wits Film School, have ensured that WSG is providing real quality in our online offerings, with multiple methods of delivery and assessment. If this takes off as we expect it to, the number of Diploma students requiring contact time will drop over time as they take up online offerings, allowing the academic staff more contact time with Masters and Doctoral students. It is always positive to see an idea - the strategic thrust mooted in the QQR - coming to fruition, and with such style.

Looking at the environment around us, however, WSG has never felt that our inputs are more urgently required. We are an African School, with students that come from every corner of the continent (and beyond). Yet we have had to make deferral arrangements for many students who simply would not place their lives at risk of xenophobic violence, in order to come write exams. The media is littered with analyses of why it has recurred (as if it went away), and the usual debates about xenophobia or Afrophobia or necrophobia or simple criminal violence. But these render invisible our students, whether they are coming from Kenya or Nigeria or Ethiopia or anywhere else, who look down south and fear that they may be next. The University cannot fix broken politics in society - but we have a key role in trying to help, in whatever way we can, including calling on government to do far more to deal with the real challenges facing our country, one of which is our on-going assumption - learned by 400 years of history - that violence solves our problems. 

Globally, the gloom continues. While the South African government has taken the quite remarkable step of opening itself to scrutiny through a myriad of commissions on inquiry - and is finding corruption seemingly everywhere it looks - elsewhere, parliaments are illegally prorogued, climate change is mocked, the Amazon has been burning for weeks, and activists are mocked and laughed at. Governance - the point at which power meets accountability - has never been more needed, locally and globally. Every graduate of this School carries a huge responsibility, to take back to your institution or organisation, key lessons about ethics, integrity, proactive compliance and good governance. These have never been as needed as they are right now.