The University’s Faculty of Arts is carving its excellence path as research-focused unit this is evidenced through the PhD graduates it produced during the 2017 graduation season. This progressive achievement is remarkable because staff members in the Faculty were graduands therefore marking the faculty commitment in growing its own timber.
The faculty is befittingly shining as the leader and pioneer of staff development as staff members obtained PhD qualifications from UNIZULU during the 2017 graduation season. The six recipients are academics in the departments of Tourism and Recreation; Anthropology and Development Studies, Sociology, Communication Science and English.
Professor Gregory Kamwendo, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at UNIZULU, said the Faculty is forging ahead with staff capacity development, adding that “a PhD, is the reputable academic achievement and a critical indicator for preserving the delivery of the refocused academic trajectory which is purposeful teaching and learning, research & innovation and Community engagement. Prof Kamwendo also reckons that these statistics speak well to the transformation agenda of the Faculty and employment equity targets.
“Female PhD holders are likely to inspire female students and learners to aim high in their studies. A nation of educated women is a nation whose bright future cannot be doubted,” Prof Kamwendo said.
Dr Blade Nzimande reiterated this focus when he hosted a Summit of Higher Education Transformation in 2010 and emphasised the issue of transformation with specific focus on, equitable access to higher education, quality of higher education, and the role of higher education in national development.
The Faculty promotes the culture of research and publications and has maintained a tradition of holding two major conferences each year; one for the entire Faculty and another for the Department of Information Studies. These conferences offer platforms on which staff and students are able to present papers and establish networks with peers from other institutions locally and beyond. After each conference, paper presenters are also encouraged to proceed to publish more papers.
Another best practice for the Faculty is knowledge sharing. When a colleague publishes, his or her published work is circulated to all Faculty staff members via email so as to open their eyes to further and/or potential research and publication avenues that could be pursued.
The Faculty is currently taking great strides with regards to the decolonisation of knowledge production and dissemination in research and this is particularly prominent in the Department of African Languages. Some of the postgraduate students in the Department write their theses in IsiZulu; something Prof Kamwendo finds “revolutionary and commendable”.
“Our institutional language policy speaks to the development and promotion of another language of scholarship in addition to English and I think we are doing well on that front,” Prof Kamwendo said.
Although these achievements are regarded highly by the Faculty, Prof Kamwendo noted that there is still great room for growth in terms of research output. He mentioned that in growing a culture of research within the Faculty it is important that exemplary leadership should adopted and leaders should be “research active”.
He also emphasised the importance of senior academic staff mentoring non-senior academic staff and students; elaborating that a supportive and intellectually empowering environment would then result in increased research throughput by academics, especially those coming from the previously disadvantaged groups and historically disadvantaged.
– Gcina Nhleko and Naledi Hlefane