Professor Cheryl Potgieter (third from right), with
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Great Zimbabwe
(Masvingo) Professor RJ Zvobgo, (fourth from right)
and representatives of the two universities.

Representatives from the College of Humanities visited Zimbabwe recently as part of the Year of the College campaign which aims to establish partnerships between UKZN and other African universities.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, said, ‘The need for the visit arose from the mutual recognition by members of staff at UKZN and Great Zimbabwe (Masvingo) as well as graduate students that a partnership would be mutually beneficial.

‘Indicative of university life is the internationalising of knowledge production, the dissemination and distribution of knowledge and information produced as well as the free movement of staff and students engaged in knowledge production processes.’

The visit aimed to explore the potential for establishing partnerships and possible Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The visit was in part facilitated by Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the School of Education, Professor Vitallis Chikoko, who is currently spending his sabbatical in Zimbabwe.

Potgieter pointed out that given the detrimental effect the legacy of apartheid continued to have on the subcontinent, the cultural life of the people of the SADC countries were still largely disconnected and separated from one another.

In this context, she said: ‘It is incumbent on African universities to develop partnerships and jointly participate in developing and fostering academic knowledge production and expertise. Our African states invest in our universities expecting the production of knowledge of the highest quality – knowledge which is both locally relevant and internationally significant.

‘This is why UKZN has embarked on the route of investing its resources in the training and education of PhD graduates. This need was also recognised by the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education (ZIMCHE) in its decision in 2012 to equally require all university lecturers to have PhDs,’ said Potgieter.

This view was echoed by the Vice-Chancellor and Head of the University of Great Zimbabwe, Professor RJ Zvobgo, who said: ‘Zimbabweans have the highest regard for UKZN’s research output and knowledge production. Zimbabweans are very proud of their history and legacy, as well as their very strong education system. We are looking forward to the partnership and the joint participation in common research projects.’

The delegation met with Deans, staff as well as prospective students at the University of Great Zimbabwe and the University of Zimbabwe. At present more than 80 applications for PhD studies at UKZN have been received as a result of this visit.

Under the leadership of Dean and Head of School of Education, Professor Gregory Kamwendo; Dean and Head of School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, Professor Jannie Smit, and Academic Leader Research in Education, Dr Pholoho Morojele, it has been decided that the College of Humanities will establish two interdisciplinary Zimbabwean PhD cohorts. Due to current demand, one cohort will be based in Harare and another in Masvingo.

The College of Humanities will also sign an MOU with the tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe.  ‘The trip was a resounding success, especially because it speaks to our vision to create more partnerships on the continent and also in terms of assisting with increasing the number of academics with PhDs at universities on the continent,’ said Potgieter.

‘For the College of Humanities we will be increasing the number of PhDs registered in the College but it is essentially about sharing resources and skills. Like UKZN, the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education has set a PhD as the minimum requirement for an academic employed at the university.’

The College of Humanities team comprising Deans and representatives of all six schools within the College plan to also visit Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia in the next two months.

‘The Year of the College gives expression to the internationalising of knowledge and knowledge production on the continent. Continental partnerships, collaborative research, the enrolling of PhD students from the continent at UKZN and prospective staff and student exchanges are giving substance to the objectives of the Year of the College as well as the UKZN vision, mission and Transformation Charter,’ said Potgieter