Student activities profiled in social responsiveness report

19 May 2008

As universities around the world work to become closer civic allies, the trend of linking social responsiveness and research to produce "engaged research" is escalating at a phenomenal rate among elite research institutions.

This was the opinion expressed at a recent UCT seminar by Professor Tim Stanton, Visiting Senior Fellow at Stanford's John Gardner Centre for Youth and Their Communities.

Introducing Stanton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Hall said UCT had begun grappling with civic engagement some 10 years ago.

With national development in mind, focus had shifted to the challenge of integrating teaching and learning with community upliftment, a uniquely collaborative process between science and society, and a research and academic endeavour to benefit both campus and community.

To this end UCT has released three social responsiveness reports to track its progress. The latest, Portraits of Practice: Social responsiveness at the University of Cape Town, goes even further than its predecessors.

It presents a sample of 16 case studies, each a gauge of the innovative civic and community work that accompanies the teaching and research. These include, for the first time, two voluntary student activities.

Centre for Leadership and Public Values

This centre, the result of a bi-national partnership between UCT and the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, develops innovative programmes working with and supporting leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Its aim is to make society more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

Planted Seeds Take Root: Postgraduate Programme in Disability Studies

Leaders in the disability sector work with academic institutions to develop disability studies and research.

The programme has links with the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds.

Health and Human Rights Project, Department of Public Health

The project works closely with civil society organisations to launch initiatives, train educators of health professionals, and make their research available in the public domain. Their research contributes to UCT's own transformation strategies.

Environmental Evaluation Unit

This unit's work is oriented to social engagement and development, and it is now a recognised leader in integrated environmental management and sustainable development. They have an interdisciplinary, participatory approach to local and global issues.

Contributing to Economic Growth Policy for South Africa

This project sees officials in the National Treasury team up with academics to research long-term economic policy, providing opportunities for UCT academics to work closely with leading international economists.

Diploma in Education: Adult Education

This two-year programme in the Higher and Adult Education Development and Studies Unit of the Centre for Higher Education development targets adult educators who want a formal qualification.

Palsa Plus

Run by the Lung Institute, this project combines an evidence-based guideline with an educational out reach programme for the diagnosis and management of common lung diseases.

African Cultural and Heritage Project

This is based in the Department of Geomatics at the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, and works to create an accurate permanent record of important African cultural sites for restoration and conservation.

Centre for Popular Memory

Located in the humanities faculty, this project ensures that non-academic sources are recognised as legitimate forms of knowledge that are of value to the academy.

Cape Initiative in Materials and Manufacturing

This acts as a bridge between big and small manufacturing companies and the best scientists, engineers and testing laboratories in the province's research institutions.

Refugee Rights Project

This project provides a unique service to refugees and asylum seekers, and is widely recognised for its work in addressing the difficult legal circumstances of refugees. Through advocacy, the project promotes the local integration of refugees into South African society.

Mathematics and Science Education Project

This is a partnership between UCT and provincial government to improve the quality of maths and science education in the province, and is being run at five schools in Cape Town.

Mathematical Outreach

Run by the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, this project hosts a range of activities for pupils at secondary schools. It also publishes a quarterly magazine for schools.

Honours Outreach and Community Involvement Programme

The Department of Information Systems' honours programme asks all fulltime honours students to spend 20 hours working on a compulsory community-based project of their choice. It holds rich potential for transdisciplinary research and teaching.

Inkanyezi: Student Voluntary Initiative

This is a UCT-student volunteering programme to improve the access of disadvantaged school pupils to tertiary study, learnerships and financial assistance. Through interactive workshops, students teach pupils about study opportunities and guide their subject and career choices.


This is an education project staffed by UCT student volunteers, who train 50 to 60 unemployed adults from Nyanga and Khayelitsha. It is an intensive six-month programme offering entrepreneurship skills, job-finding capabilities and computer literacy.

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