21 August 2006

Doing more with what we have

The government is asking universities to produce more graduates to drive the growth in the South African economy. At the recent Senate meeting, the vice-chancellor remarked that it might be hard for UCT to increase its output of graduating students without input of further resources. This led me to wonder whether we can do better with what we have already got.

Is our teaching as effective as it can be? Many of our first-year courses have pass rates of only 80% or less. Many students drop out in good academic standing.

Can these losses be reduced?

There are experts in CHED/ADP who can comment on whether our curricula, timetable, mode of knowledge transfer and learning environment are well matched to the changing needs of our student intake. Experts on the university strategy committee may have considered whether our existing faculties and departments are best suited to efficiently educating undergraduate and postgraduate students.

For example, are the separate science, engineering and commerce faculties the best structures for training students in computer programming and data management, or might a smaller, more focussed Faculty of Information Technology be a better way to go?

Since almost all academics and many students have a view on these matters, it seems useful to spark a debate in the pages of the Monday Paper, to be later taken forward in more formal structures.

David Aschman
Professor of physics and member of Council

Uphold fundamental values

Open letter to Nazeema Mohamed, Manager: Transformation Office

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." (Mark Twain)

More than 2 300 years ago, the great philosopher Plato based his famous school, the Academy in Athens, on the fundamental ideas of competence, honesty and, above all, unbiased truth. The University of Cape Town, essentially an offspring of that ancient school, should uphold the same fundamental values.

Your racial obsessions, plus gender partisanship, and obvious political indoctrination by themselves, exclude you from a position of unbiased broker. Truth has nothing to do with race, religion, gender or political correctness!

Let the Academy - UCT - be an institution of higher learning, based on the old and time-honoured principles of competence, honesty and unbiased truth. Only then shall our institution fulfil its true mission.

Dr V Gherasim (retired)

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