Director General from the Department of Higher Education and Training, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, did the official opening and first keynote address and highlighted “the topic as a timely and critical one or tackle complex issues such as sustainability.”
Mr Whitfield Green, Conference Chairperson and the CEO of the CHE indicated that “there has been a need to focus on [postgraduate] education. The impact of apartheid still lingers in the way [postgraduate] education is acknowledged in the higher education sector”.
According to the Chairperson of the Council on Higher Education, Ms Vuyo Memani-Sedile: “Access to [postgraduate] education is as important as [undergraduate] education, but success in [postgraduate] education is equally important”.
And finally, the CEO of Universities South Africa (USAf), Dr Phethiwe Matutu indicated, “the topic of the CHE conference is timely for the higher education sector and highlighted the challenge of time to completion at [postgraduate] level due to students working whilst studying due to lack of funding”.
University of the Western Cape (UWC) was represented by Professor José Frantz – Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation. In her keynote address she spoke about the efforts of historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs) in promoting access to and success in postgraduate studies.
Prof Frantz also highlighted that amidst crises such as the #FeesMustFall protests, loadshedding, and the COVID-19 pandemic, “Learning awakens us to possibility and acting on possibilities compels us”. She emphasised that the challenge of postgraduate education must be seen through various lenses, and the context of the institution should also be considered.
In addition, various UWC staff members participated in the conference, with Mrs Janine Senekal, Professor Erika Munnik, and Prof Frantz presenting a poster titled: “Understanding doctoral graduate attributes: students, graduates and supervisor perspectives”.
Dr Cornel Hart, Professor Priscilla Daniels, and Professor Vivienne Lawack presented on the topic: “Developing next generation PG capacity and research ethos”, which focuses on “being socially just, relevant, transformative, and impactful.”
Dr Rekha Rambharose presented on the topic: “Developing RPL practice through collaborative support for postgraduate access”.
Mr Silence Chomunorwa also presented, and the topic was “Perceptions and experiences of academics on using data to support postgraduate students.”
As a research-led university, postgraduate education is essential to tertiary institutions and trying to understand various aspects that contribute to postgraduate education will help us improve our offerings as an institution, Prof Frantz explained. The focus of the postgraduate academy at UWC, funded by the Sibusiso Bengu Grant, will assist us in connecting the possibilities to make postgraduate education accessible.