08 March 2024

The University of Mpumalanga, in partnership with Stellenbosch University, hosted the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Future Professors Programme (FPP) closing ceremony to celebrate the successful conclusion of cohorts 1 and 2.

The purpose of the Future Professors Programme is to build capacity in the South African higher education sector by preparing senior lecturer equivalent staff for the professoriate. This is a direct response to the current inequality in representation in the senior ranks of academia.

UMPThe FPP is one of six collaborative initiatives hosted by the DHET and individual South African universities. 

Phase 1 of the FPP is administratively hosted at the University of Stellenbosch but serves all 26 South African public universities under the leadership of Prof Jonathan Jansen, a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch and President of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Speaking at the ceremony, UMP Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso expressed appreciation for the opportunity to co-host a ceremony of this magnitude.

“We value such experiences as part of our pioneering journey. We are also grateful and appreciate that some of our colleagues have participated in this prestigious programme to build capacity at professor level. We have seen firsthand how this programme fosters and promotes academic excellence both at individual and institutional level,” she said.

UMP Vice-Chancellor speaking at the ceremony. 

DHET Director-General Dr Nkosinathi Sishi mentioned that the programme was established in 2020 to address one of the most prominent concerns in contemporary South African higher education, which includes cultivating the next generation of Professors to represent the demographic diversity of the population.

“There is much more work that needs to be done, and we are very clear that this is the commitment that we have the privilege to fulfil on behalf of the people of South Africa.”

He further stated that the mission of the department is to transform the system in various ways.

“Among others, it includes enhancing research development and research productivity through research development and research output funding. I’m also proud to confirm that the research output policies instituted 18 years ago have had a positive impact on the profile of publications across our universities.

The contribution by each of the racial groups to overall publication output between 2005 and 2022 shows an increase in the publication contribution, particularly by Black African, Coloured, and Indian academics to the sector’s knowledge production,” said Dr Sishi.

He further mentioned that the contribution by females to the overall publication outputs since 2005 has also grown from 32% to about 45% in 2022. Institutionalizing the university capacity development programme in the South African University framework is important and key to this initiative.

“The department has thus far invested approximately R135 million over six years in this programme to support a total of 150 senior academics who are ready to take up and apply for professor positions.”

UMPDr Sishi said the Full Professors Programme has made great strides since its inception in 2020. 

Dr Sishi concluded by saying that the department is currently engaging in several options, including developing smart universities and exploring other avenues to ensure that the doors of learning and culture in our country are open.

“Today you constitute the Future Professors cohort in the academic space of South African universities and beyond. Your dedication to the profession, adaptability to changing circumstances, and incredible resourcefulness were notable and spoke to the ethical values of a transformed professor at the Department of Higher Education and Training.”

The event recognised 50 academics from universities across the country who completed the FPP in various disciplines. 

UMP Academic Dr Mduduzi Ndlovu was in the cohort 1 programme said: “The programme gave us the opportunity to fine-tune our ratings and get ready to receive the best ratings. We had the opportunity to mingle with beautiful mentors and beyond that, we were taught to be leading researchers.

The best that came out of it is the collaboration to garner for funding, share equipment and ideas, be able to cross cut all the different fields with ground-cutting research that most of us would not have done in isolation.”

Dr Ndlovu also applauded the programme for exposing them to world scholars, the best in the Universities, and internationally recognised.

Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures ChrisplPhoto.