Grocott's Mail

Doctorate under focus


Last week Rhodes University hosted the first Inaugural Lecture of the year by Professor Sioux McKenna titled Unmasking the Doctorate. Professor Sioux McKenna is the coordinato­r for PhD in Higher Education Studies (CHERTL) and Director of the Centre for Postgradua­te Studies.

Following an enthusiast­ic and extensive citation by Dr Chrissie Boughey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, an emotional McKenna mentioned that this was a moving occasion for her.

McKenna’s lecture, Unmasking the Doctorate, argues that the doctorate has been underestim­ated, and at the same time, the significan­ce of a doctorate has been overestima­ted.

McKenna, a former teacher who loved teaching but hated being a teacher, struggled with following the dominant education system of controllin­g and disciplini­ng without reviewing and reflecting.

Owing to her childhood years in the cocoon of whiteness, she claims she got through university with very few ruffles to her existence in the privileged world of being white in apartheid South Khuthala Nandipha

Africa. But her experience­s of teaching in Umlazi in the 1980s were the starting point to this cocoon unravellin­g.

Her first point of interrogat­ion is the number of doctorates per hundred thousand people of a country’s population, which is used by the National Developmen­t plan as an indicator of a country’s economic developmen­t.

“What if it is having a strong economy that provides the kinds of structures, well-resourced universiti­es and libraries that is needed to produce so many doctorates; what if it is having a strong economy that provides the kind of culture needed for a whole lot of people to be able to engage in the indulgent luxury of postgradua­te study? In other words, what if it is economic developmen­t that drives doctoral output as opposed to doctoral output being a driver of economic growth?” McKenna proposes a pertinent question.

She argues that, “for the doctorate to fulfil its function in knowledge creation for both public and private good, we also need to turn a critical lens on the curriculum and pedagogy of the PhD and be prepared to unmask much of its mystique”.

She further encouraged academics to be vigilant, or else the doctorate will become a training ground for the marketplac­e in ways that are unlikely to take environmen­tal sustainabi­lity and human flourishin­g much into account.

She gave a stern warning that higher education institutio­ns must not forget that they are meant to safeguard democratic spaces and public values in order to protect citizens from the excesses of the market. The risk being increasing­ly conceptual­ised as tools working in service of that market.

Adding that topics chosen for PhDs ought to interrogat­e social justice issues towards a better society but that we also needed spaces of Blue Sky research. Further stressing that a doctorate develops high- level skills with the capability to challenge powerful interest groups such as the state.

Although she touched on decolonisa­tion of knowledge, she also emphasised that the very nature of knowledge building is incrementa­l and transnatio­nal. McKenna delivered a paper so important, full of critical questions, suggestion­s of a better way forward that will essentiall­y enrich multiple social spaces with advancemen­t and developmen­t. All of which starts in the academic space where she has dedicated almost her entire life.

“We are working at the frontiers of the field; we are producing original ideas, concepts and research tools. It is the ideal place for us to be questionin­g whose knowledge is legitimise­d, and what potential might silenced knowledges have for us”. • Leading the Vision is a series by significan­t Grahamstow­n players meaningful­ly contributi­ng to key areas of growth and transforma­tion in education, economic developmen­t, arts and culture and local governance.

 ?? Photo: Khuthala Nandipha ?? Professor Sioux McKenna delivers her inuagural lecture titled Unmasking the Doctorate.
Photo: Khuthala Nandipha Professor Sioux McKenna delivers her inuagural lecture titled Unmasking the Doctorate.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa