By Sara Lagardien Abdullah
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 4 of VARSITY News.
On 17 April, the University of Cape Town (UCT) issued its 2018 Transformation Report, which focused on UCT’s demographics and outlined its attempts to change the university’s institutional culture. The university has set out to approach this issue through its new three-year Employment Equity (EE) plan, which seeks to increase the representation of Black and Coloured academic staff between 2019 and 2021, although it notes that “transformation is a life-long commitment.”
The changes to staff demographics, outlined in the Staff Access, Development and Success component of the report, target an increase in the representation of African academic staff from 11 percent of all academic staff at UCT to 15 percent by 2021. The plan also projects an increase in the proportion of Coloured academic staff from 14 percent to 17 percent and a reduction in the representation of white academic staff at UCT from 44 percent to 40 percent.
“The EE Fund is prioritised for succession funding and the black professorial pipeline and is being reviewed to expand its reach in order to strengthen succession planning for key staff, especially for building the black professoriate,” the Transformation Report states.
Moreover, the report stresses the need “to change institutional culture by promoting collaborative and collegial relations, fostering new academic networks and building confidence based on concrete career progression.”
These changes outlined Staff Access, Development and Success component of the report have been a key focus for many UCT academics for the past few years.
“Academics have been agitating for [these changes] for a while now,” said a UCT Sociology lecturer who wished to remain unnamed.
The National Research Foundation (NRF), an independent government agency that promotes and supports research in South Africa, has been advocating for these institutional changes on a national level. In addition to supporting shifts in staff demographics, the NRF argues that addressing transformation in tertiary institutions is a process rooted in good education at the primary level.
Whilst noteworthy work is being done to realise transformation at UCT, Oliver Layman, a student at the university, expressed that the changes weren’t enough, as they didn’t address issues in the curriculum.
“Apart from achieving equity in academia, the issue of the curriculum is also important because we still have a curriculum that is highly Western and often alienates black people,” Layman said.
Although the report outlines certain changes to UCT policy, some students are sceptical that they will be enough to truly transform the university when done in isolation.