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We need more young female academics – Department of higher education and training

by: Simamkele Matuntuta - 21 November 2014

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) wants more young people to take up positions as academics. The department said this at a briefing committee meeting by the select committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, adding that people who are currently sitting in those positions would retire soon.

The DHET was presenting an overview of the rate of transformation in the higher education and training sectors. The transformation is aimed at correcting the injustices of the past, to provide equal opportunity for all. Among other imbalances spoken of was gender equality. The department’s deputy director general, Firoz Patel, said that most positions are currently filled by males.

Photo

Photo credit: sodahead.com

Not enough graduates

The department cited many challenges that stand in the way of transformation, like students dropping out. Some have their qualifications withheld because they or the NSFAS, acting on their behalf, owes the school money. All this slows the progress of the students advancing to postgraduate studies, which then limits the number that can become staff.

In 2009, Higher Education South Africa (HESA) agreed to an initiative to develop a national programme to build the next generation of academics. HESA are representatives of South Africa’s University leadership and they encourage cooperation among universities and government, industry and other sectors of society in South Africa. HESA noted that one of the major barriers to higher education is that there are not enough masters and doctoral graduates.

HESA also mentioned that academics need to have educational knowledge and skills in order to develop the curriculum and for facilitating students who come from increasingly diverse social, cultural and educational backgrounds.

There’s some progress

University of Johannesburg lecturer, Dr Buyisiwe Sondezi, the first woman in Africa to be awarded a doctoral degree in experimental physics  Photo: sapeople.com

University of Johannesburg lecturer, Dr Buyisiwe Sondezi, the first woman in Africa to be awarded a doctoral degree in experimental physics
Photo: sapeople.com

There have been some gains, such as the increase in the enrolment, graduation and academic staff employment numbers compared to the previous years. The numbers also show that slightly more women (a 100 000 difference) enrol for university at undergraduate level.

The department has also proposed more intervention strategies to quicken the transformation process in academic staffing. The foundation provisioning programme is aimed at helping underprepared students to succeed. Another is the teaching and research development grant which will be used to improve the qualifications of academic staff and the quality of teaching. The Staffing South African Universities Framework (SSAUF) will build capacity and to develop a future generations of academics.

In addition to that SSAUF is looking to support the development of existing academics and recruit, support and retain female academic staff.

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