|Prof Wim de Villiers|
Debates about transformation in higher education are generally confined to addressing the issue of increasing diversity of academics and students at the institutions. I am not in a position to comment on diversification in institutes of higher education and will leave the debate to those who are.
Last October, I went to a debate about transformation in higher education at the Baxter Theatre. It was hosted by UCT. Max Price (UCT), Johnathon Jansen (University Bloemfontein) and Professor Phakeng (UNISA) formed the panel and each gave presentations. The most memorable presentation was given by Prof Phakeng. Amongst the other points she made, she argued that universities should be ranked by the local relevance of their research rather than on whether it is taken up by the international academic community.
In his lecture, Professor de Villiers also broadened the discussion to ask how universities can make themselves more relevant to the society they represent. The town of Stellenbosch has one of the biggest discrepancies between rich and poor of any area in South Africa. Should the University of Stellenbosch concentrate on getting global recognition or should it concentrate on trying to provide solutions to local problems? Prof de Villiers gave an example of how the law faculty has been involved in dealing with local issues.
The University of Cape Town have been running a series called "Cafe Scientifique". Academics from the science departments at UCT present their research. Both the public and industry are invited. The aim is to bridge the gap between academia and practical application.
There is no doubt that there is much to do in bridging the gap when it comes to breast cancer research and access to care. Prof de Villiers is a medical doctor and I hope he broadens his definition of transformation to include more equitable access to health care.