An institutional culture based on trust, respect and appreciation is what DVC Professor Francis Petersen hopes will come from a new programme aimed at academic staff.
The Recruitment, Development and Retention Programme (RDR) will be launched on 29 September 2015. It has at its centre a triangular relationship between an academic staff member, his/her head of department (HOD), and a mentor (a senior staff member). This programme is not only for new appointees, but will be available to all academics.
The function of the triangular relationship is to assist academics to progress in their careers. For each academic, an agreed career track with clearly defined milestones will be outlined within the context of this relationship.
“We hope the programme will contribute to a more open, inclusive and transparent institutional culture where all members of the academy feel heard and supported,” explains Petersen.
The ad hominem promotion process will be reviewed to increase transparency and to reduce subjectivity. Work in this area has already begun, with changes being implemented to the composition of faculty ad hominem promotions committees, to make them more representative in terms of rank, gender and race. The criteria for promotion will also be spelt out more clearly.
Another feature of the programme is the ongoing support offered to those within the triangular relationship. Existing support programmes for academics, such as the New Academics Practitioner Programme (NAPP) and the mid-career Programme for the Enhancement of Research Capacity (PERC), are being looked at to see where improvements could be made. Mentorship programmes across the university will provide the opportunity for mentors to improve their service, while support programmes for HODs are also in the pipeline.
Communicating the programme and reporting on its progress is another central tenet of the RDR.
The pilot project to kick-start the RDR programme will involve a select group of 34 academics. The goal of the project is to increase the number of black South African staff in the professoriate.
“Transformation is a key focus of the university. So as much as this programme is about contributing to changing the institutional culture at UCT, it is also about transforming the professoriate,” said Petersen.
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The Next Generation Professoriate (NGP) is a mid-career academic staff development and support programme. Funded by the vice-chancellor’s Strategic Funds, the NGP addresses demographic inequalities in the academic hierarchy. The goal is to help members become associate and full professors.
The NGP was officially launched in September 2015. By the end of 2018, four of its members had been promoted to full professor and a further 14 had reached the rank of associate professor.
The programme is led by Dr Robert Morrell, who has over 35 years of academic experience in South African universities. He has a B1-rating from the the National Research Foundation (NRF) and is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences in South Africa.