VC, students discuss issues and developments

26 May 2002
INCREASES in student numbers, pressure on classroom facilities and staff, and reduced space for student societies were some of their least favourite things according to students who responded to Professor Njabulo Ndebele following his Vice-Chancellor's Half-Yearly Student Review.

The Review took place in the Jameson Hall on March 25, and is the second such meeting that Ndebele has conducted since coming to office 18 months ago. These regular sessions with students are part of a "tradition" he hopes to continue during his term as Vice-Chancellor, and follow similar reviews for academic and support staff.

Ndebele began by discussing student politics and student representative structures, emphasising the need for the latter to continue to be the "custodians of participatory process". Referring to the new Student Representative Council, Ndebele said history had bestowed on student leaders the responsibility of shaping their own destiny.

"These added responsibilities demand that those who are going to prosecute them have an intimate knowledge of the people they represent and of the changes taking place within the higher education sector nationally. It is imperative for the new SRC to take a more practical view of the national political environment in which it functions."

Ndebele also paid tribute to the growing student leadership pool on Campus that was "striving to make things happen", including: RAG; SHAWCO; the Habitat Society (which builds houses in disadvantaged communities); Student Enterprises (a student-based group that creates opportunities for students to "incubate and grow business ideas", including the recently launched Ikey Bookshop); and SHARP where students participat to increase HIV/AIDS education and awareness.

Turning to broader issues, Ndebele sketched developments pertaining to the National Working Group Report on higher education, particularly the recommended mergers beyond the Western Cape. "Among those unhappy is a strong view that the mergers involve a large number of historically disadvantaged institutions, while strong historically advantaged institutions are perceived to have been left 'untouched'.

How UCT responds to this situation will be critical." He said that UCT thus had an obligation to show "major sustainable progress" in achieving an equitable staff profile.

Ndebele added that UCT had to find ways of enhancing collaborations with those new institutions, and in particular the disadvantaged institutions, that would emerge from the restructuring.

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