Second time around

27 February 2006

Dr Loveness Kaunda

After an 18-month absence, Dr Loveness Kaunda returns to UCT as director of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO).

For the former Dean of Students, this new appointment feels like a continuation of her previous job, since IAPO is the first port of call for all international students attending UCT.

"So I'm not done with students yet," Kaunda says. "They are still very much a part of my life."

She arrives at an auspicious time; as the international office celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for me to take part in reviewing IAPO's milestone achievements, embrace the university's strategic objectives with regard to internationalisation, and carry these forward."

IAPO has done remarkably well in the past decade, placing UCT firmly in the global sphere.

Today, there are over 4 000 international students - including postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and Semester Study Abroad Students (SSA) - comprising 20% of the student population.

Although an impressive feat, this nonetheless presents a significant challenge for IAPO to balance this increased demand for study at UCT against keeping a reasonable ratio between local and international students.

The average number of exchange students on the SSA programme has more than doubled from 334 in 2002 to 676 in 2005, with 2006 enrolling the highest semester intake of some 400 students. This figure, though, has remained unmatched by local students going abroad, due to funding constraints, inadequate marketing of the exchange opportunities to faculties and differences in the academic calendar.

Kaunda believes that IAPO needs to explore other kinds of short-term exchanges that would enable more UCT students to take advantage of exchanges with partner universities. IAPO will also be engaging UCT academics in discussions around the globalisation of the curriculum so that credits become portable between UCT and universities abroad.

Aside from student issues, there are other challenges that call on Kaunda's combined academic and diplomatic skills.

Presently, UCT has agreements with 45 universities and continues to receive partnership requests from more institutions on a regular basis. However, despite UCT's goal to grow a global profile, it is not possible to say yes to everyone, and each request will need to be considered very carefully to determine mutually beneficial advantages.

Also on her to-do list is enlightening the university community about what IAPO does and the opportunities available to students and staff alike.

"I get the sense that not everybody knows and understands what IAPO does," Kaunda says. "They may only know the superficial aspects of our work, but there is a great deal that IAPO can do to facilitate and service international agreements and collaborations. The tenth anniversary provides the prime opportunity for us to communicate UCT's policy on internationalisation and IAPO's role in implementing such a policy."

The anniversary certainly presents a fitting launch pad for Kaunda to navigate the international office through another decade of successful international relations.

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