College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

New Unisa VC visits the Science Campus

Prof Ramagoai Magano (Executive Dean: CAES), Prof Puleng LenkaBula (Principal and Vice Chancellor), and Prof Bhekie Mamba (Executive Dean: CSET)

The College of Science, Engineering, and Technology (CSET) and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) successfully hosted the first visit of the newly appointed Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, on 1 February 2021. With the attendance of close to 100 delegates from both colleges, the purpose of the visit was to meet the management of CSET and CAES and to have an engagement that could assist the university in moving forward.

This visit was ably hosted by the executive deans of both colleges, Professor Bhekie Mamba (CSET) and Professor Ramagoai Magano (CAES), who expressed their appreciation that the VC had made time to visit the Science Campus in spite of her hectic schedule. It was particularly of note that this took place early in the year, permitting time to implement any recommendations following the presentations from both colleges. Sterling work done and plans going forward were also presented.

The VC congratulated the two colleges and said that the work done by the Science Campus is important, as it presents an opportunity for the university to compete in a global space. “As management, we need to play a leading role in positioning the Science Campus to become a leader in the sciences through stronger collaborative ties,” she said.

LenkaBula thanked both colleges for the meaningful contributions they are making to improving the teaching and learning practices in Unisa. She emphasised that Covid-19 had given the university an opportunity to think and indicated that there were enormous opportunities that both colleges had to explore in order to improve several aspects, especially Unisa’s university rankings.

Some of the comments after the presentations from both colleges included the following:

  • Increasing the number of academics with doctoral degrees

Although the VC acknowledged the progress made by the college by having 57% of permanent academic staff members with PhDs, she felt the college could do even better than that.

  • High enrolments in higher certificates

The VC cautioned against high intakes of the higher certificates. Instead, the college must establish collaboration with TVETs to do the teaching of higher certificates. She emphasised the importance of investing in degrees instead of higher certificates.

  • Increasing the number of graduates at M&D levels

Similarly, although she noted that both colleges were performing relatively well, she emphasised the importance of increasing the throughput at master’s and doctoral levels. She further indicated that there is a strong need to find more supervisors, especially in CSET.

  • Endogenous methods to deal with the current challenges faced by the continent

She encouraged CAES to explore research themes that focus on endogenous practices as remedies to the challenges confronting the African continent. She gave an example of poultry, asking why we were not focusing on the production of indigenous chicken.

  • Attracting best scholars

She implored both colleges to make a concerted effort to attract the best scholars.

  • Use of postdoctoral fellows

She requested the college to recruit postdoctoral fellows to enhance research in the research focus areas of the college.

Both colleges welcomed the VC’s response and indicated their commitment to attend to all the issues she raised. As the VC left the Pityana Building, she was redirected by professors Shawren Singh, Ernest Mnkandla, and Simi Dube to the I-SET Robotics Hub. Dr Patricia Gouws and Kabelo Pheeha were on hand (with a team of robots) to welcome the VC and present a very brief three-minute introduction to the ongoing work of the Inspired towards Science, Engineering, and Technology (I-SET) community engagement project. On departure, the VC noted that she would need to return to the I-SET Robotics Hub soon (preferably with much more time)!

*By Thembeka Ntuli-Mpapama, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Science, Engineering, and Technology, and Gugulethu Ncgobo, Communication and Marketing Assistant, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Publish date: 2021/02/18