UNIVERSITY news - July 2016
13 july 2016 |
Report on Prof Ramash Bharuthram’s visit to the University of Mpumalanga (30 May to 1 June 2016)
It was a great pleasure to have Professor Bharuthram at the University of Mpumalanga. On the 30th of May 2016 he ran a seminar for UMP staff on the importance of research at a university. Although staff have had opportunities in the past to engage with literature in an attempt to understand research, Prof Bharuthram’ s approach made it quite simple to understand the process and outcome in relation to the researcher and society.
Prof Bharuthram explained the concept of research and how it leads to the discovery of new knowledge and why this new knowledge is necessary. He pointed out why there is a strong need to support research even with the high costs associated with it. Some of the gains mentioned in the explanation are collaboration and opportunities for technology transfer which ultimately benefit society. In higher education, research feeds back to the system as it transforms teaching and learning which in turn promotes human capacity development.
Prof Bharuthram also explained the research process to the participants. He described each step, explained its importance and gave hints on how to tackle each of the steps. For persons doing, attempting or envisaging to do Masters and PhD studies, they must be driven by the desire to attain the highest academic qualification and the passion they have for a particular field of the study.
There are also factors that are critical for the success of an individual doing research. These include among other things, self-motivation, choice of supervisor and time management. Participants were also guided on how to select a research topic, with the important influence being interest in a particular field. This would maintain the zeal for the individual to proceed with the study to the end.
Benefits to the researcher were also discussed. These include an individual contributing to staff development by acquiring higher qualifications and/or improving one’s scholarly profile, both of which contribute to promotion and advancement on the academic ladder. Through research one can also expand one’s knowledge base and strengthen his/her access to research funds. Prof Bharuthram also explained how research enhances critical thinking.
Participants were also alerted as to how privileged they were to work at a university. They were then advised to utilise the opportunities made available by this privilege to improve themselves and also contribute to the growth and development of the university through publications and conference attendances. This is in a way, a responsibility attached to the privilege, creating new knowledge for the benefit of society. Participants were thus encouraged to contribute to the scholarly development of their specific disciplines, departments, schools, faculties or university or nation at large.
The second day of the visit, 31st May 2016 saw the visiting professor meeting different schools as well as individual staff members. In these sessions staff members had the opportunity to discuss their plans regarding their careers and professional development with the professor. Those who sought advice and direction did so and the seasoned academic had all the answers. His experience and knowledge came handy for everyone. The professor also offered to provide links with potential mentors from around the country. He also promised to avail himself to those who may need assistance regarding their studies, professional development or research. For some individuals, Prof Bharuthram pointed out some other opportunities available to them, including supervising postgraduate students at other universities. Academics were also made aware of funding that was available for research and were given hints on how to access the funds.
Schools were advised to build international strategic partnerships with other universities. This would be one way of ensuring knowledge transfer. In building these partnerships academics should always consider their own contexts to ensure that programmes they engage in are relevant and beneficial to their communities. Schools were also advised to introduce postgraduate programmes as this will also promote and increase the research output of the university. As academics of a new university, individual staff members were also called upon to play their roles in contributing to setting up a reputable culture and this they could do through publishing and conference attendance.
Both the seminar and meetings were beneficial to all who attended. All academics who availed themselves to these meetings sang praises for Prof Bharuthram as each one of them had something to take home. It is hoped that the academics will exploit the opportunities that the visiting professor has made available to them.
The Staff of UMP are grateful to the university for providing them with the opportunity to engage with distinguished professors who add value to their professional development.
Put together by Mr Trust Nkomo
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