$2 million from Carnegie for transformation

14 April 2008

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has approved a three-year US$2-million grant (roughly R15.5 million) towards UCT's institutional transformation and employment equity programme.

"This is by far the largest grant in Carnegie's current international programme, testimony to their faith in our transformation processes," said vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Njabulo Ndebele.

Carnegie has been a staunch ally in this endeavour over the years (UCT's initiatives began seriously in 1997), but this grant will underpin specifically the staff profile aspect of transformation.

"Of all the components of UCT's transformation programme, bringing the academic staff profile into alignment with that of the population as a whole has proven to be the most difficult," said principal investigator, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo.

There are formidable challenges: long-term contractual obligations, a dearth of black and women academics, and competition for the meagre pool of funds from government, commerce and parental contributions to tuition fees.

During the past 18 months UCT has developed a model for changing the academic staff profile. This plans to nurture a critical mass of black people and women in the ranks of each faculty, by concentrating in particular on retention and development opportunities for black and women staff at UCT.

"A key to UCT's employment equity model is a commitment to long-term employment. We intend to do this by identifying 'glass ceilings' that restrict staff advancements through inimical aspects of institutional culture," Nhlapo said.

Succession plans have been buttressed by programmes supporting new staff in developing their professional skills and by the human resource department's "competitive" staff retention programme to make UCT a preferred employer.

As regards the former, Nhlapo said: "In practical terms what you want to do is to give relief to these new, and invariably younger, members of staff from heavy teaching loads, for instance, so that they can complete PhDs, conduct more research, or travel to conferences to deliver papers: in short, to assist them to make an impact in their departments and faculties".

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