UCT launches ‘refresher course’ for seasoned academics

11 February 2021 | Story Niémah Davids. Photo Pexels. Read time 4 min.
UCT’s ESAPP launched virtually on Monday, 8 February 2021.
UCT’s ESAPP launched virtually on Monday, 8 February 2021.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has placed experienced academics at the top of its priority list with the launch of the Established and Seasoned Academic Practitioners’ Programme (ESAPP).

ESAPP was launched virtually on Monday, 8 February 2021, and is a first of its kind for UCT. The programme is dedicated to the advancement of established academics at the institution and is open to full-time academics with between five and 15 years of experience (or more) in the higher education sector.

An initiative of UCT’s Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), ESAPP brings together roughly 20 academics from various faculties across the university. The programme aims to foster an ongoing culture of learning among the group and to help them further navigate the world of academia and the challenges it brings.

The programme is co-convened by Associate Professor Kasturi Behari-Leak, the deputy dean of CHED and the interim director of the Academic and Professional Staff Development Unit, and Professor Alan Cliff, the interim dean of CHED. Co-facilitators include Professor Azeem Badroodien, the director of the School of Education; Professor Harsha Kathard, the research director of the Inclusive Africa Practices (IAP) Research Unit; and Dr Benita Moolman, the programme manager of the Global Citizenship Programme. ESAPP is supported by Avrill Dawson, who handles administration.

To celebrate the launch, participants convened for their first two-day online retreat this week, and topics of discussion included: understanding the higher education sector; teaching, learning and scholarship in the African context; supervision pedagogies and relationships; and more. The second retreat will take place next semester and will culminate with a special ESAPP colloquium at the end of the year.


“ESAPP is an opportunity for us to come together and to reflect on the seasons of our academic life.”

Enhancing teaching practices

According to Associate Professor Behari-Leak, ESAPP is aimed at enhancing teaching practices and focuses specifically on postgraduate teaching and supervision. She said that the programme will draw on academics’ strengths, experiences and capacities to further enhance and provide “substantiative shape” to academics’ postgraduate teaching aspirations and their engagement with students as critical knowledge producers.

She described ESAPP as a “refresher course” on the latest and most relevant teaching frameworks and curriculum models in relation to postgraduate teaching and supervision. It seeks to understand who students are and how academics engage with them in socially inclusive ways.

“ESAPP is an opportunity for us to come together and to reflect on the seasons of our academic life. Through this community of critically reflective practice, we are able to learn from each other, and understand and unpack what it means to navigate and grow as an academic,” Behari-Leak said.

A groundbreaking programme

While delivering the welcome address, UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said that ESAPP is a groundbreaking programme that will serve academics, the university and the higher education sector in South Africa well.

“Often, we think that once people are established and seasoned, we don’t have to engage, we don’t have to come together and learn from each other [to] help grow the institution,” Professor Phakeng said.

She said that she is “incredibly pleased” about the programme, not only because of its content, but more importantly, because of its timing. Phakeng said that the institution depends on the more established and experienced members of UCT’s academic staff, especially after it has been “shaken so much” in recent years “that it needs some re-centring”.

She said that now is the time for the university to unlearn old habits and relearn new ways of being and doing. ESAPP is one way of doing this.

Phakeng thanked the convenors for establishing the programme’s strong vision and reminded participants that it’s in line with the university’s Vision 2030.

“ESAPP creates capacity for us as a university, not only to respond to the demands to decolonise, but also to shape what higher education in general and the university becomes after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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