UKZN DVCs recently embarked on a week-long “Tea with DVCs” sessions in an attempt to ensure better synergy between the research and teaching and learning portfolios, as well as engage with staff on issues in these areas.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Bala Pillay engaged with staff at all UKZN campuses during sessions.
The purpose of the sessions was to encourage working relations between the research and the teaching and learning portfolios in order to break down the silos mentality currently happening at the University and to hear any challenges that staff are faced with when it comes to these two areas.
Both DVCs spoke on the four goals and enablers in the new University strategy which speak strictly to both research and teaching and learning. Ramjugernath expanded on the four Research Flagships.
The Edgewood campus was the first to kick off the discussions where staff raised issues affecting academic staff. These included heavy workload, the number of modules, the access of the International Office to assist international students, and the discrepancies between the Department of Higher Education and UKZN list of accredited journals.
Some of the challenges and concerns raised on other campuses included productivity units (PU), the acquisition of journals to be available in the library, the transition of qualified support staff to the academic sector of UKZN, student entrepreneurship, and the support of multidisciplinary research.
In his response to some of the questions raised, Ramjugernath said PUs were put in place to allocate research funds and not to monitor performance. He said the UKZN (library) is one of the best-resourced institutions in South Africa in terms of journal acquisition.
Pillay encouraged staff to think out of the box to make their curriculum more interesting. He urged staff to share resources and lab spaces to accommodate other academics.
One of the concerns raised was the access to research incentives by support staff and units. Dean of Research present at the discussions, Professor Urmilla Bob said all staff benefit from the incentives and they are encouraged to contact the Research Office.
Pillay told staff that each of them have a role to play. He said the University should improve its teaching and relook at the curriculum. ‘The world of work has changed drastically but the curriculum has not,’ he added.
Ramjugernath said the staff should stop working in silos and promote multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. He said some of the major research breakthroughs have been a result of multidisciplinary research.
Pillay advised the Heads of Schools and Deans to rationalise modules and consider getting rid of modules that are not needed, as this will decrease the workload and help with staff: student ratios.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu