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Research Week 2019: Developing The Next Generation Of Research Excellence

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

Post-grad studies can be a lonely, difficult path, especially for first-generation university entrants. That is why the University of the Western Cape is doing its best to develop and empower a community of next-generation research superstars.

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(Published - 30 October 2019)

“When you have the right person who sees the potential in you, and gives you the tools to dig within yourself for capabilities you may not even recognise - well, then wonderful things can happen. You can discover things within yourself that you didn’t even know were there - and you can become so much more than you thought you could be.”

That is what University of the Western Cape (UWC) Education Psychology lecturer - and budding researcher - Ronél Koch appreciates most about the university’s Developing The Research Scholar (DTRS) programme. She was speaking at the recent UWC Research and Innovation Week 2019 held on campus.

Under the guidance of UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor José Frantz, the programme was launched last year to spark interest in research among support staff across all faculties, and to help boost research capabilities and confidence on campus. The participants completed modules in creating a research profile, writing a funding proposal, writing a research proposal and writing for publication.

“I remember when I started this programme, I felt very insecure in various ways, having completed my Masters, but never published,” Koch said. “Now I’ve been very confident about my PhD, and I know that what I’ve learned​ will continue to have an impact on my career as an academic and my life for a very long time. And hopefully I’ll be able to pass that along to someone else someday.”

Koch also singled out the social aspects of the programme, and how it offered the emerging scholars many opportunities to network and collaborate.

Fellow DTRS scholar, Mologadi Makwela, PhD candidate and communications manager at the NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, said: “Much of the PhD research process is done in isolation. Readings, your fieldwork, analysis, and writing; all of it is on you, and you alone. But DTRS has changed this. The programme has provided us with a safe space to share ideas - and arguments - with researchers from different faculties and fields who otherwise would not have come together...well, that’s been challenging, informative and even transformative.”

Makwela noted that the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach of the programme had changed her approach to research in many ways - and that those kinds of approaches would be increasingly important in the twenty-first century.

“The most important part of this programme, the most unique and interesting thing about it - is the idea behind it,” said Makwela. “And that is the idea that the complexities that we face in an ever-more-complex world require a different kind of scholar - an intersectional and multidisciplinary scholar.”

Prof Frantz’s developmental activity draws no distinction between academic and professional staff. Makwela added that it was incredibly important that these kinds of programmes were escalated to reach the wider University and develop true scholars.

“Research is driven by humans, and in the end, it’s the humanity behind the research that’s going to enable us to look holistically behind the system,” she said. “So if we want to produce research that is sustainable, impactful and innovative, we need to develop and nurture the humans behind the research.”

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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