Bak to the future: New director will develop postgraduate enterprise

11 February 2013
Postgraduate boost: Dr Nelleke Bak, new director of Postgraduate Studies at UCT.
Postgraduate boost: Dr Nelleke Bak, new director of Postgraduate Studies at UCT.

With the global flux in higher education provision, UCT is uniquely poised to play an even larger role in offering educational services to Africa than it already does.

This is the view of Dr Nelleke Bak, UCT's new director of Postgraduate Studies, who says it's a privilege to be part of the academic community of Africa's top-rated university.

"From what I've already seen, there are innovative and exceptional postgraduate projects at UCT, involving students in cutting-edge research."

Bak says UCT is responding to the growing need for high-end skills regionally, nationally and internationally, by committing itself to strengthening the postgraduate profile of the university.

She holds the following degrees: BA (Ed) (University of Pretoria), BA (Hons) (University of Natal), MA (UCT) and PhD (University of the Western Cape). She was previously director of UWC's highly successful Postgraduate Enrolment and Throughput Plan, and also Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education.

Bak set up the National and International Fellowships Advisory Office at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and taught in the Philosophy Department there. When UCT recruited her, she was Professor of Education Policy Studies (part-time) at the University of Stellenbosch.

Bak has also published a best-selling book, Completing your Thesis: A Practical Guide (Van Schaik's, Pretoria, 2004) and compiled a series of guides for postgraduate students.

She says her brief is "to support the various graduate programmes across campus, to encourage appropriate innovation and to help streamline and enrich the whole postgraduate experience for both supervisors and students".

The aim is to leverage the diversity of structures across UCT, including recruiting and throughput promotion strategies, not to encourage over-centralisation. Essentially, Bak's main task entails "thinking and linking," and she will be tapping into the diversity of UCT's research structures and strategies to promote recruitment and throughput

She says her first priority is to develop a central postgraduate website. This will consolidate the various bits of information scattered across sites to make it easier for visitors to navigate, and will link to the websites already developed by specific faculties and offices.

"Moreover, I hope to enhance the community of postdoctoral research fellows by ensuring a greater flow of information across faculties, and by strengthening support systems." She says UCT's structures are highly devolved, "and to create synergies across departments and faculties will require insight, patience and careful listening".

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