Lust for research ratings at the expense of the nation
Professors Mamokgethi Phakeng and
Adam Habib continue to show their lust for international ratings at the expense of the nation. Their “Funding research-intensive universities should be a priority” (October 7) buttresses the view by students that some of our vice-chancellors do not listen.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is 223rd and Wits University 230th in the Center for World University Rankings. These mainly use research outputs as a measure. (There is an emerging trend that suggests some among us in the academic space have established a cartel-like environment where authors exclusively cite each other, ensuring that aspiring academics, largely black, are kept outside particular journals, but this is a serious issue that deserves a separate article.)
In 1992, the ANC’s “Ready to Govern” document painted a clear picture of how skewed our education system was. At the epicentre of the injustices in our higher education system was skewed resourcing. In 2017, Wits and UCT received over 51% of private-sector funding to universities.
Our esteemed professors see and hear no evil in this.
Research-intensive universities tend to attract better funding than other types of universities through activities such as subsidies for student research chairs, the National Research Foundation, the
National Student Financial Aid Scheme and more. However, one can argue that the research conducted in these universities is often not aligned to the developmental needs of SA and the African continent.
Since the advent of democracy and as recently amplified by the #FeesMustFall movement, the cry of the majority has been to open the doors to higher education. In essence, we can argue that the continuous focus on research by some “elitist” universities may undermine the need to produce adequately prepared and developed graduates who are responsive to the needs of the country and can contribute to the knowledge economy.
I propose that more money be put into teaching-focused universities in order to create a mass of well-trained human capital. More money should be put into training students in scarce skills as identified and articulated in the National Development Plan.
Sadly, two black academic leaders — who should understand the challenges and dynamics of apartheid and its established hierarchies, exclusions and benefits to such research universities — are not promoting the development of other universities to become “excellent” and enhance their research agenda, and instead want to promote exceptionalism. Olwethu Sipuka, PhD candidate, UCT
May Tito last a while longer
The appointment of Tito Mboweni as finance minister, replacing Nhlanhla Nene, is welcome. President Cyril Ramaphosa is commended for his swift and prompt action in making this appointment in this important ministry.
However, the government needs to ensure that it creates some stability in the finance ministry. Since 2009, SA has had seven changes of ministers in the portfolio, and this has resulted in the country going backwards in terms of economic growth.
The ministry of finance plays a significant role in the performance of the economy. Should the ANC win the 2019 elections, Ramaphosa needs to ensure that there is consistency in that department and not consider making another appointment.
Thabo Tswai, Ga-Rankuwa
Puzzle standard is down …
You will probably guess that the subject of my letter consists of Cross Words. And crosswords is what I am writing to you about. I am distressed about what has happened to your crossword puzzle page.
For the past 25 years (if not longer) I have derived great pleasure and entertainment (with a little difficulty at times) in solving the Everyman’s Crossword. And an occasional dabble at the WH Crossword.
Usually the first page I search for in the Careers section is the crossword puzzles. I immediately sensed trouble when trying to start the main, supposedly Everyman’s, puzzle. This has been given the name Cryptic Crossword, and is of a completely different standard to the good old Everyman’s version. The old WH has disappeared as well, to be replaced by Quick Crossword, which is totally uninteresting to cryptic crossword solvers.
My Sunday entertainment has taken a dive. Please restore my Sunday pleasure by reinstating the Everyman’s Crossword and the WH Crossword.
Trevor Hodgson, Waterfall, KwaZulu-Natal
… and I’m not coming across
I was very upset not to find the WH Crossword in the paper this week. You young people probably do not realise the history attached to the WH, which has been in the Sunday Times for about 50 years! I am 74 and I used to do this with my father in my 20s. I still do it in his memory.
We can’t discard everything historic, surely? We are already without the small Times, which was such a pleasure — I still have to collect the phantom from the gate every morning for the dog’s sake.
No Zapiro, fake Sars scandal reporting and now no WH … I will not be renewing my subscription.
Lise Day, Hout Bay
My Sunday was totally devastated when, despite paying the full price for my weekly addiction, I found that the Insight did not have the usual editorial by the editor, Letters to the Editor, cartoon, Peter Bruce article, Barney Mthombothi article, Chris Barron column or Hogarth, let alone the Mampara of the Week! Those pages are mandatory reading!
I looked in the other sections, but all these people were missing — did they just take a holiday? What happened?
Jenny Hammond, Hilton
● The articles referred to were in the third section of the newspaper.
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