Price talks issues

25 August 2008

In the hot seat: VC Dr Max Price faced some tough questions at the Graduate School of Business and Hiddingh Campus, as well as at later meetings.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price held a number of meetings on 20 August with staff and students around UCT campuses to discuss issues raised in his installation address.

The meaning of being a university in a democratic country, the labelling of people in debate as either racists or affirmative action candidates, and the failings of the current education system were just some of the topics Price raised.

At the series of meetings, titled Campus Conversations with the Vice-Chancellor, staff and students took the opportunity to respond and raise a few points of their own.

First stop was Hiddingh Campus, where attendees raised issues such as gender equality and sexual harassment, funding for special events and the raising of fees, and the need to attract a greater diversity of international students (although, as is desired, UCT would remain a popular destination for semester students from the US and Europe). The ongoing concern of the availability of digital storage facilities and adequate bandwidth was also discussed. There was consensus that Hiddingh Campus suffered from inferior network and internet access, in comparison to the rest of UCT, because of its location on the "other side" of Table Mountain.

One attendee also questioned the roles of the Development and Alumni Department and the Centre for Higher Education and Development.

Feedback at the Graduate School of Business touched on the sensitive issue of the "independence" of the school, and its profitability. Another major concern was the Department of Home Affairs' refusal to issue study permits to foreign students who already have work permits - an issue which some feel has had a negative impact on the GSB.

UCT's growth was also discussed, with some commenting that the university is not sufficiently equipped to deal with part-time students. Price noted that although growth is certainly a goal, the university is limited in the extent it can grow under current circumstances without spreading itself too thinly.

The issue of the "rift" between academics and PASS staff came up - not too surprisingly - at an afternoon meeting with the two grpus.

Price also spoke of the value and his own experiences of the Khuluma (and Mamela) workshop series. He is keen, said Price, to see more senior university and academic staff, particularly, attend these workshops. While attendance is voluntary, Price hoped to create the expectation that all staff will sign up.

Further meetings were held at the Medical School, and with representatives from student organisations.

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