Family and colleagues bid farewell to the participants of the Accelerated Academic Leadership Development Programme (AALDP) at King Shaka International Airport earlier this week.

Teachers College, Columbia University, the oldest and most prestigious graduate school of Education in the US, have partnered with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), University of Zululand (UNIZULU), and Durban University of Technology (DUT) to develop the Accelerated Academic Leadership Development Programme (AALDP), a first for South Africa.

A group of top academics (mostly teacher educators) – 14 from UKZN, 5 from UNIZULU, and 1 from DUT were selected as participants of this innovative four-year programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high impact research. 

Now, in their third year of study the educators will complete a 5-month residency at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The partnership is aimed at accelerating the development of KZN-based predominantly black academics in teacher education and locates the project of transformation in a space of robust and sustained support, international exchange, networking, quality and impact. The programme forms part of the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP), a DoHET sponsored grant that supports the development of academics in higher education.

Dean and Head of the School of Education at UKZN, Professor Thabo Msibi is the lead coordinator of the project. Msibi says he is delighted to see two years of hard labour culminating into something that potentially will reshape higher education in the province, “Institutions across the globe are seeking ways in which internationalisation can be prioritised as a central feature of university life; I’m very pleased that we have found a way to do this, and to do so as equal partners.  Through this project, our staff will have an opportunity to work with internationally renowned scholars in their fields.  We wish them well as they embark on this new, exciting journey and would like to thank DoHET for the funding that has enabled this opportunity!”

The participants have been mentored on PhD completion and academic disciplinary leadership by local and international mentors (4 in each country).  In the first year of the programme, the focus was on PhD proposal writing, academic development and inputs on teaching and academic leadership in higher education, through cohort sessions facilitated by both local and international staff. The second year of the programme supported staff on data generate and writing.  Staff also spent some time working on abstracts for presentation in international conferences, and also had an opportunity to present at a local conference.  

During the residency, candidates will have an opportunity to work with their mentors at Teachers College while also attending writing, supervision and teaching seminars and workshops there. Staff will also be registered as Columbia students and will be expected to complete an independent study with their mentors while also auditing classes aligned with their area of expertise.  A number of presentation opportunities have been arranged specifically for the staff, including presentations at the largest conferences in Education and other disciplinary areas.