Points to Ponder as the University of the Future Grows

by MMC
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The steering committee of the University of the Future (UoF) continued its commitment to the pioneering vision to create a modern University of Cape Town (UCT) by intensifying the contribution of staff and alumni on Thursday 4 October. Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel delivered the keynote address, posing thought-provoking questions for the UoF Steering Committee and UCT stakeholders.

“The exciting opportunity that futures thinking presents is that it allows us to let go of the constraints of the present (It starts with) understanding the existential question of why universities exist. There are two points to consider in answering: either advancing knowledge or producing graduates. The UoF must reflect on its own role in a society marked by the legacy of race and class,” Manuel said.

“When the preamble talks about raising the standard of living and the quality of life for everyone, that’s a continuing obligation.”

He added: “Secondly, when you look at the preamble to the Constitution, it makes several commitments about the type of society we seek to build: we must recognize that these commitments exist in perpetuity. When the preamble speaks of raising the standard of living and the quality of life of everyone, it is a continuing obligation. But thirty years later, we have a problem because we have not socialized these values.”

Manuel then revealed the chasm that exists in teaching and learning, given people’s experiences with the COVID-19 lockdown and the potential tension between contact learning and virtual.

“I want to suggest that we consider why non-interaction must occur; Are there courses that will require different types of engagement and use of space in the university of the future? There are various responsibilities that fall within the academic domain, outside of the didactic domain, including the socialization of young people by experiencing life on campus. In South Africa, this must include the need to transcend divisions of race, gender and class.

Participants took part in a co-creation exercise to share ideas on the University of the Future project.

The next parameter that exists is one that Manuel knows well: finance. On this subject, he was clear: “What will distinguish UCT from the top ranked universities is the amount of endowments received. In the recent past, there has been a shift in funding for researchers to specific academic projects with the expansion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This creates stress on universities because, on the one hand, your growth numbers have increased. As universities respond to demand, this impacts the need for increased teaching. This creates the need for more academics. The UoF will have to take this into account.”

“What kind of services do we expect from UCT and to what extent are our expectations being met or not.”

Some of his other relevant observations included taking stock of the institution’s location as well as the use of emerging technologies. “The project is an opportunity to rethink parts of campus life and proximity to living areas in Cape Town. We must accept that AI must be used and taught in universities to distinguish the future from the past.

The day was also dedicated to gathering participants’ views on what a “university of the future” would look like; the audience was treated to a panel discussion comprising key leaders from UCT and the City of Cape Town. Multi-award winning jazz singer and composer Nomfundo Xaluva-Dyantyis was the guest artist.

“Why a University of the Future, you may ask… the higher education landscape is changing, not just in South Africa but across the world. As the leading university in Africa, how do we navigate this change? There are three compelling factors we need to think about today. The first is access to higher education: we need to think about an inclusive and sustainable university with more students, less space, less funding while maintaining our excellence in teaching, learning and of research,” said Professor Salome Maswime, President of the UoF. Steering committee.

“The world is adapting to new ways of teaching, new technologies and new pedagogies; new ways of doing research with the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) and thirdly, universities are becoming more socially responsive…becoming an extension of the communities we are part of; becoming socially relevant and contributing to social justice is now part of what we must do.

Vice Chancellor temp worker Professor Emeritus Daya Reddy told participants: “Just as our studies and research have evolved, we are now also thinking about how to perceive our spaces on campus: we need to think about some of the important questions in this exercise of defining and what kind of space we can think of. experiences each person has had with the physical environment of UCT, including; what kind of services do we expect from UCT and to what extent are our expectations being met or not.

The roundtable was chaired by Professor Graham Fieggen from UCT and he was joined by his colleagues, Professor Sue Harrison (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation); UCT Chief Financial Officer Vincent Motholo; Acting COO, Mughtar Parker; as well as alumni and vice-president of MTN: Southern and Eastern Africa, Yolanda Cuba; and Kaylene Simpson, Head of Research at the City of Cape Town.

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