The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) evergreen annual Summer School celebrates its 71st instalment in 2021, in its first virtual format, thanks to COVID-19 safety considerations. From 11 to 30 January 2021 participants can enjoy a bumper, three-week feast of open learning, encompassing over 90 short courses.
Murder, seaweeds, fascist politics, racial science and early explorers are just some of the topics that will be featured across diverse fields: medicine, politics, science, history, law and art. Offerings will also showcase some of the depth of UCT’s research.
After some deliberation about its future and its audiences, Summer School was incorporated into the Development and Alumni Department (DAD) in 2020.
DAD’s executive director, Dr Russell Ally, said that the decision has opened new avenues for enriching the alumni experience with their alma mater and for all other Summer School participants.
In a recent communiqué Dr Ally said that since 1950 the flagship UCT programme had attracted thought leaders, academics and industry specialists who presented short courses to the public, part of the university’s commitment to lifelong learning.
“The inclusion into DAD enables the Summer School to play an important role in helping to transform the university.”
“The inclusion into DAD enables the Summer School to play an important role in helping to transform the university into a more inclusive institution. The programme is accessible to everyone, regardless of educational background,” Ally said.
Going online has now made it possible for more people from around the world to experience the intellectual richness of the Summer School programme, Ally added, particularly audiences that would not ordinarily have been able to travel to Cape Town.
The decision to take Summer School online has also been bolstered by the success of DAD’s webinar series this year. For example, the 2020 Unlocking COVID-19: Current realities, future opportunities? webinar series attracted a YouTube viewership of 31 400.
Tackling current issues
The rise of COVID-19 has also seen the Summer School team expand its content to explore pressing current issues and what these mean to the world, its people, economies and societies.
The many COVID-19 angles that the courses tackle include insights from medical professionals on the pandemic’s impact on our sleep and health, a look at parliamentary oversight during lockdown, as well as an exploration of viruses and epidemics in history and the particular threat of COVID-19 to South Africa’s fragile democracy and social welfare safety net.
Among the highlights are two special lectures.
UCT alumnus and chairperson of the UCT Alumni Advisory Board, Dianna Yach, will present a two-lecture course on the translation of equality, diversity and human rights into practice in which she will draw on studies in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Israel and Palestine.
The second is the annual UCT Legacy Society lecture, which will be delivered by Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and Abbas Jamie, the founder of The Innovation Mentor and part of the UCT Futures Think Tank.
“This is an exciting time for Summer School, and we’ll be sharing developments as we chart a new course.”
The Summer School team is also thinking ahead. Dr Medeé Rall, the director of UCT’s Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, said: “As we plan for the future, many have asked whether we will return to physical lectures on campus for future summer schools. We’re mindful of our need to make Summer School far more accessible and inclusive to different audiences.
“And with technology providing the means, we’ll build on the online platform. However, we do see a mixed format of both live and virtual offerings once we’re able to fully open campuses. This is an exciting time for Summer School, and we’ll be sharing developments as we chart a new course.”
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