Lust for re­search rat­ings at the ex­pense of the na­tion

Sunday Times - - Opinion -

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

Seek­ing In­sight

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.

Write to PO Box 1742, Sax­on­wold 2132; SMS 33662; e-mail: tel­lus@sun­day­times.co.za; Fax: 011 280 5150 All mail should be ac­com­pa­nied by a street ad­dress and day­time tele­phone num­ber. The Ed­i­tor re­serves the right to cut let­ters

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