Reflecting on the year

04 November 2022
The Hub at Philippi Village is the home of GSB Hub where there was a program for the Summer School. The village is also a  commercial space to rent that caters to small businesses, events, conferences, expos, and charity events
The Hub at Philippi Village is the home of GSB Hub where there was a program for the Summer School. The village is also a commercial space to rent that caters to small businesses, events, conferences, expos, and charity events

Overall, 2021 was a crossroad for transformation at UCT. The year offered tension points, contradictions and dichotomies in terms of how we can understand transformation at UCT. Here are three examples:

Warning Signs

Warning signs

Over the first three years of capturing data on the benchmarks, the “place, space, language and identity” benchmark and the “institutional responses to discrimination” benchmark reported decreasing actions in line with the benchmark criteria. More work needs to be done to prioritise these benchmark areas.



While the above challenges are present, there are several hopeful sparks of change. For example, the “strategic integration of transformation”, “student access and support”, “staff access and support”, “curriculum support”, and “innovations” benchmarks each have peaks and dips. While change in relation to these benchmarks is not clearly progressing or regressing, the peaks offer suggestions for programmes that work and could be upscaled.


Transformative awakening

The “community engagement” and “centring UCT’s African identity” benchmarks each saw a growth in actions meeting the benchmark criteria. These two offer inroads to transformative awakenings – spaces where transformation can grow in its impact and reach.


In times of fear and flame, metamorphosis is possible. The implementation of the benchmarks does not deliver simple answers, ie, whether the university is progressing or regressing. However, the benchmarking processing has enabled faculties and departments to reflect in a structured way each year on the actions they have undertaken. In doing so, as a whole, we’re able to see where there are warning signs, where there are sparks for change, and where transformative awakenings are emerging.

How did faculties and departments reflect on the year?

  • CHED “The online work environment has many challenges, but also provided opportunities for the expertise in CHED to come to the fore. In particular, the roles that CHED units played in the provision of online learning support, undergraduate student advising, career guidance and support for new academics have allowed the role of CHED at UCT to emerge. The different units in CHED have many noteworthy transformation and inclusion initiatives, but the challenge of coherent faculty initiatives still remains. There are signs, though, that 2022 will provide opportunity for joint initiatives.”
  • Commerce: “Commerce faculty was in a transitionary year in 2021 with an acting dean. It was also a second year of COVID-19. Staff did their best to think carefully in a meaningful way about specific transformation initiatives. There were several important moments as shown in the report where meaningful change occurred. We need to be mindful that staff were managing several deadlines and actions to keep the teaching project going in the best way possible in 2021, dealing with student traumas, supervising postgraduate students to completion and managing the boundaries between work and family in a remote working environment. In 2022, Commerce has a deputy dean for transformation and inclusion, and a new dean. We will be developing a new Commerce strategy that will be underpinned by transformation and inclusion and aligned more deliberately to the transformation benchmarks and inclusivity plans.”
  • Radiation Medicine (FHS): “Our journey in the department of Radiation Medicine was not easy. In many respects, we were forced to deal with issues at a time when staff were feeling burnt out and demotivated, having just emerged from a long, tedious third COVID-19 wave. In an extremely busy service-delivery-heavy department, issues of transformation are sometimes relegated to the back burner, but we are all starting to realise that it is a continuous process rather than ‘events’ or ‘incidents’. We are learning to be more mindful and respectful, and that is very important. We are trying to break down the wall of the ‘divisions’ within our department, getting everyone together in the same space and having a sense of belonging that was achieved with our inaugural ‘Transformative’ Research Day. Although our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) workshop was reactive in a way, it started a process that we will continue into the future and will hopefully shed light on the difficult issues we face every day.”
  • GSB: “In the past 12 months, the GSB has continued to centre transformation and an Afrika-centred strategy, approach and curriculum across all of its programmes. It has made new investments of time and funds into Afrika-centred cases, as well as supporting other schools on the continent in their pedagogy and ability to develop and use their own Afrika-centric courses and pedagogical materials. Through its specialised centres and the facility at Philippi Village, the School continues to engage in substantial research, teaching and engagement with local communities in formal ways, including in ways that allow GSB students to better understand the diversity of lived experiences among the population of the Western Cape. The School has, through its Transformation Forum, begun a new initiative with a community engagement project – the Children’s Library in Philippi – that has attracted support from students, faculty and staff across the GSB and that the School looks forward to continuing to support.”
  • Humanities: “The past 12 months have been generative in that the process of drawing up the Faculty Plan enabled discussions about how the committee can address specific focus areas. It was good to reflect on the employment equity targets and to reflect on the staff profiles. The targets we had set were aspirational and aimed at addressing the gap we face where there is no balanced representation of black (inclusive) staff at senior academic ranks. We welcome the changes in the new guideline that will enable appointments at higher ranks. In many ways, 2021 was a transitional year: Not only were we transitioning from the old plan, but we also facilitated dialogues about the new Employment Equity Policy and Practice Note/ Guidelines. Many new initiatives in the plan, including annual lectures and collaborations with the Humanities Student Council, are very exciting and we look forward to forging working relationships and facilitating discursive platforms for the faculty.”
  • IAPO: “Despite the challenges experienced, we round off 2021 with a great deal of hope and optimism that as a Transformation Committee and department we have laid a firm foundation for transformation, inclusion and diversity. The activities earmarked for 2022 will build on what we have achieved this year.”
  • UCT Libraries: “2021 was a difficult year for UCT Libraries; however the awareness of the importance of transformation, inclusion and diversity is beginning to take root. It has been slow, but the activities identified in the draft transformation action plan provide for a more dynamic transformation trajectory in 2022.”
  • P&S: “Over the period of three years, the P&S department has transformed exponentially from operationally deficient to a department with a clear strategy and roadmap to improve its service offering. Nobody, unless directly involved, will really understand the amount of effort and expertise required to enable the level of change within the P&S department, ie, challenging for funding through various committees and seeking Council approval. While the P&S department still has a long way to go, we have reached a point where we are able to focus on creating a positive culture throughout P&S, which will in turn drive transformation. We are confident that the P&S department will continue to improve its service through addressing operational deficiencies which will in turn impact staff morale and lead to a more positive culture within.”
  • Science: “Although the ongoing pandemic has made many traditional approaches to TDI difficult (eg getting into a room together and talking), it has also opened up opportunities. Reflecting on the progress in 2021, it is clear that the Faculty of Science has embraced the potential of the online context for opening up lines of communication and especially for engaging in activities with colleagues across departments and across the world. The proliferation of knowledge products – including everything from articles to online courses to local and global webinars – is a testament to our real engagement with and commitment to transformation, diversity and inclusion, in line with global movements. This template is considerably fuller than it was just two years ago, and we are grateful for the direction in which the Science faculty is growing.”

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