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Developing the Research Scholar 2020: A New Generation of Research Excellence

Author: Melanie Snyders & Nicklaus Kruger

South Africa needs a new generation of researchers to face the complex “wicked problems” of the twenty-first century. UWC’s Developing the Scholar Programme helps emerging researchers complete their PhDs, and build the skills needed to make a difference.

(Published - 7 August 2020)

Years ago, University of the Western Cape student Lutasha Ndesi met with UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius. She asked him about the University’s greatest challenges. One of those challenges: the greying of academia.

“He was concerned that some of our greatest researchers – at UWC and in South Africa as a whole – were getting older, and that there weren’t enough talented young academics coming through to take up the torch,” she said. “He said that we need to be thinking about how to grow that research timber and extend the frontiers of knowledge – and the Developing the Scholar programme is an answer to that particular challenge.”

Ndesi, now a PhD candidate who is a lecturer in UWC’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS), spoke at a recent webinar celebrating the University’s Developing The Research Scholar (DTS) programme.

As one of dozens of graduates of the Developing the Research Scholar programme, Ndesi reflected, in her speech, on how this programme complemented her developmental needs and growth as an emerging researcher and lecturer. 

The programme was introduced in 2018 by UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor José Frantz, as part of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) University Capacity Development Grant to develop T-shaped academics. These are academics who are grounded in their discipline but are able to collaborate across disciplines.

The two-year programme aims to develop the emerging researcher as an all-round scholar through a series of modules, workshops, and more.

Professor Mario Smith, Acting Director of UWC’s Division for Postgraduate Studies was a facilitator on the programme.

 In his address, he acknowledged the development of T-shaped graduates and challenged the participants to build further and become key-shaped academics. “We want you to build broad skills that are cross-cutting, that allow you to work outside the narrow definitions and boundaries of your discipline. And we want you to develop areas of specialisation in varying depths. And then we want you to share your knowledge and skills with others as active citizens.”

Professor De Wet Schutte was one of those established academics who shared knowledge with the DTS participants.

“The DTS programme is unique in the way it combines subject specialists – the students’ supervisors – with generalists, in the form of mentors,” he noted. “As mentors, we help students through the processes of doing their research, provide feedback, and inform them of opportunities. The supervisor is the final word, naturally – but we can help along the way.”

Many participants described the programme as life changing, both in terms of their research and academic career, and in other areas in life.


“I found this programme very useful,” said Makhaya Malema, a third-year PhD candidate and lecturer in the Department of Sport, Recreation & Exercise Sciences, and a first-year participant in the DTS programme. “I was able to get multiple publications, and get my PhD proposal ready and accepted for Ethical clearance by the University's committee. I was further able to network with colleagues through the biosketch I developed. It has truly been inspirational and exciting to be in this programme.”

Ndesi echoed that sentiment.

“The programme is a special one because it has given me a sense of purpose, a sense of direction and meaning – both in my research academic career and in other spheres of life,” she said. “The programme has provided me with invaluable opportunities, resources, skills, and practices to enable my empowerment to become both an independent and interconnected research scholar.”

The webinar also celebrated the launch of the new cohort of DTS 1 2020 participants. And for the original DTS graduates, it’s far from over.

 “The focus of this programme falls within developing the next generation of researchers through supportive approaches to postgraduate training and early career staff development,” said Prof Frantz. “By doing that, we’ve forged a community of practice, with a common goal, a common vision, and we want you to take that vision and share it with the rest of your department, your faculty and beyond. Go make a difference.”

Want to know how UWC can help you be the best that you can be? Why not find out more about UWC’s innovative postgrad programmes? Or learn about how UWC is producing Fourth Industrial Revolutionaries? Or how we’re preparing people for the world outside of campus? Just take a look!

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