Postgrads supported to do valuable and transformative research

The role of postgraduate students at Unisa is to conduct research that has a positive impact on society – this was the theme that guided the first ever Annual Postgraduate Research Indaba hosted by the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) in collaboration with the National Student Representative Council. 

The student-centred programme was presented with the aim of equipping honours, master’s and doctoral students with the tools necessary to embark on a fruitful academic journey as future scholars. Unisa support staff and academics addressed participants on topics ranging from postgraduate bursaries, loans, internal and external support for students with disabilities to supervision capacity, policy amendments relating to research at master’s and doctoral level, as well as research capacity development.

Research support to drive change

Prof Lindiwe Zungu, Executive Dean of CGS, explained that postgraduate studies demand a great deal from students, and that it was for this reason that the university had set up structures to assist them.

Zungu went on to offer the reassurance that although some of the challenges facing South Africa and the world may seem insurmountable, they may well be overcome by the cutting-edge research conducted by students participating in the Indaba. She encouraged the postgraduates attending the day to embark on a research journey with the potential to change the world through science and innovation with the power to mould policies and influence government and the economy for the benefit of future generations. However, the new researchers would not have to do this alone: "CGS is here to guide and support you to diligently define your tomorrows and shape your futures," she affirmed.

Nurture knowledge and society through research

In his welcome address, Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, urged the cohort of emerging researchers to pursue knowledge faster than the speed of light. He made the observation that in the world we live in today, knowledge is not appreciated, and people seem not to understand that the success of any nation is dependent on knowledge. Yet knowledge can be translated over time and can spell out success and stability, and lead to a sustainable plan that will enrich a country through economic inclusion. As Makhanya pointed out: "Knowledge is an enterprise where you need to apply all your energies in questioning, uncovering and compiling innovative ideas for the betterment of our society."

Research must be relevant, it must matter and it must add value to communities. Problems such as social justice, diseases, drug abuse, poverty and inequality can be resolved through research, and new researchers need to do all in their power to find permanent solutions to what is ailing society.

In stating the purpose of the research indaba, Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation, reiterated that South Africa is a developing state with socioeconomic problems that can be tackled through research by students across all disciplines. She encouraged the postgraduate students to form support groups, to become activists for a universal African society, and to implement ubuntu in all facets of their studies.

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation

Asanda Nogqala, Unisa’s Master's candidate in Psychology

Apply proactiveness in service of humanity

Keynote speaker and Unisa’s Master’s candidate in Psychology, Asanda Nogqala, shared her experience of being a postgraduate student and identified the qualities that all emerging researchers should strive to develop. She called on postgraduate students to be proactive rather than reactive in the face of societal problems. Nogqala expressed her conviction that in studying problems and coming up with possible solutions that will benefit others in society, researchers and scientists have been designed for action.

If postgraduate students are to be proactive, they need a research-enabling environment that invites them in and supports them through financial aid and dedicated supervisors. "We are proud to be affiliated with an institution that understands the core grassroots of research with initiatives that make our studies a pleasant journey," she said. In short: as knowledge ambassadors in training, through research, postgraduate students have a significant role to play in both society and academia.

* By Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications Assistant, Directorate: Research Support

Publish date: 2019/10/22