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The University of Venda (UNIVEN) Executive Management Committee and Executive Deans of Faculties held a Workshop titled, “Towards a University Leading in Engaged Scholarship: Operational Concept and Plan”. The workshop was held via Microsoft Teams on Friday, 2 July 2021. Prof Jan Crafford, DVC Academic facilitated the workshop. 

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford (above) facilitating the workshop

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni opened and welcomed participants to the workshop, who comprised all members of Executive Management, three Executive Deans, Directors of Research and Innovation, Community Engagement and Institute for Rural Development. He extended his special word of welcome to the new DVC Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, Prof Nosisi Nellie Feza who joined the University on 1 July 2021. Dr Nthambeleni articulated the background of the University and the current strategic direction, which is anchored on four strategic thrusts, namely Student-centredness and engaged scholarship; Entrepreneurial University; Governance for Scholarship; and Linkages, Partnerships and Internationalisation. He underlined the fact that UNIVEN should not be regarded as a rural University but rather a University located in a rural area. It is the only University that is found in the Vhembe Biosphere. Thus, it is crucial that as the University deliberates on and decides how to develop a culture of engaged scholarship, this context must take centre stage. “…. For us to achieve our vision, it is important that we set aside resources for implementation. We cannot leave this aspect to external funders”, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal argued. He concluded by revealing that the request he made to Professors Francis and Netshandama in October 2020 regarding how to infuse engaged scholarship into the fabric of both academic and non-academic work was starting to bear fruit. The engagement with the Executive Management and Executive Deans marked the first step in a series of deliberations that will shape the nature and character of how engaged scholarship would be practiced at UNIVEN. 

Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, Vice-Chancellor and Principal delivering opening and welcome address

Soon after the opening and welcome remarks, Prof Joseph Francis who is the Director of the Institute for Rural Development, delivered a comprehensive presentation of the working document that seeks to clarify what engaged scholarship is at UNIVEN. He jointly authored the document with Prof Vhonani Netshandama. In the working document, they argue that summoning and sharing international literature on engaged scholarship with the rest of the University community will help inform decision making on how to operationalise this concept. Apart from this, Professors Francis and Netshandama contend that there are numerous opportunities through which the University should practise engaged scholarship. Among these are the District Development Model, the Musina-Makhado and Fetkagomo-Tubatse Special Economic Zones; localisation of the National Framework for Local Economic Development, 2018-2028 operationalising the science engagement strategy and the programmes of the EDHE -Entrepreneurial Development in Higher education; Vhembe Biosphere Reserve; grounding the new UNIVEN Centre for Entrepreneurship and Rapid Incubation; Nwanedi Agrihub, emerging Mhinga-Xikundu Agri-hub and enhancement of the functionality of Communal Property Associations, among others. In all this, engaged scholarship makes it possible to work closely with grassroots communities and other stakeholders at local, provincial, continental and international levels to co-generate viable solutions to the numerous challenges faced in society. 

Prof Vhonani Netshandama

Prof Joseph Francis

Participants endorsed the working document. It was resolved that all the Faculties, Directorates and support Departments would hold workshops to further engage and operationalise the concept. Undergraduate and postgraduate students, alumni, grassroots communities, external stakeholders such as government (local, provincial and national), business formations, as well as regional, continental and international stakeholders that are strategic to the university would be engaged as well. 

Senior Prof Georges Ekosse (above) delivering a vote of thanks

Issued by: Department of Marketing, Branding & Communication 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 / 8710 

Date: 05 July 2021 

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