Dear colleagues and students
I was appointed acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation in the context of a national research-funding crisis. It was my mandate during my four months in this role to consult with the research community and develop a plan of action to ensure UCT’s researchers continue on their path of research excellence despite the major shifts in the research-funding landscape.
To this end, the university made a discretionary fund of R30 million available to the research enterprise. I was tasked to consult with the research community and come up with a proposal on how best to use this fund to shift our research-funding dependency from the National Research Foundation (NRF) to international funding sources and allow our excellent research to remain strong despite a turbulent national environment. Key to this was making sure that UCT’s researchers receive the support they require to navigate these large and complex grants and, importantly, that the university has the necessary systems in place to ensure adequate financial management and internal clearance for these grants, in terms of risk and other compliance issues, such as ethics.
Armed with this mandate, I began a process of intensive consultation, brainstorming and workshopping, the outcome of which is a draft plan for an integrated approach to a systems-based research platform.
The development of this plan was an iterative process undertaken with various research committees and forums of the university. I presented to – and received feedback from – the University Research Committee on two separate occasions. I also presented to – and received feedback from – the Dean’s Committee, the Leadership Lekgotla and each of the faculties’ Dean’s Advisory Committees (except for EBE, which is upcoming). Each of these presentations offered valuable feedback, which – where possible – was incorporated into the draft plan.
You will note when reading the document that funds have already been committed to implementing certain elements of the plan. The reality is that the national research-funding crisis and other challenges faced by the research enterprise were not going to wait for the completion of the DVC selection process. We needed to respond to the challenges immediately or risk declining in both our research output and international standing.
Elements of the plan have thus already been put in place while others are at varying stages of consultation and conclusion. This plan remains a working document that will be handed over to our new permanent DVC, when they come into the position, who will no doubt continue the process of consultation, adjustment and implementation of the plan to ensure that UCT remains both the best in Africa and the best for Africa.
I would like to acknowledge the amazing support I received from the research office, in particular Dr Marilet Sienaert for her advice, insights and help with navigating the maze of UCT support systems making this ambitious plan possible. Most importantly, I would like to thank Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng for affording me the wonderful opportunity to serve this great institution.
Professor Kevin Naidoo
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation
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