Professor George de Lange from the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) delivered a guest lecture titled: Engaged Scholarship-Balancing the Nexus of Teaching Innovation, Research and Engagement on 23 April 2021. In her welcome address, Professor Vhonani Netshandama, Director of Community Engagement appreciated the over 120 colleagues in attendance that represented not less than seven institutions of higher learning in SA.
Professor George de Lange provided outlines of the contextual factors that influence the institution’s engagement focus and the production of scholarship. The importance of the institutions’ conceptual approach to engagement was emphasised.
Professor de Lange further highlighted that, Engagement should be about how the university teaches and what they teach, how they research and what they research, and how they have shifted off-campus and what they are doing in the community.
When delivering the lecture, Professor de Lange indicated that, the internal and external factors determine how universities engage and would affect the number of scholarly outputs produced through engagement. He said, the mission, vision, values and the level of institutionalisation and embeddedness of the core functions. “Secondly, the resources in institutions in terms of infrastructure is important. Thirdly, of utmost importance is balancing the nexus; bringing teaching and learning, research, innovation and entrepreneurship together in an interactive-co-dependence and co-production process. Fifth, the integration of engagement, collaborative research, applied/ action research, technology transfer/participatory research, contract research, commercialisation of IP is important for sustenance. In this regard, Professor de Lange shared the NMU case studies.”
“If a university stands on its island without talking to the society around to make inputs, it is not going to transform at the pace that you expect. Engagement invigorates, stimulates, enhances and contextualises the core functions of the university,” Professor de Lange insinuated.
He continued to say that Institutional Enablers are vital. “Institutions need to create enabler or drivers for engaged scholarship and provide support to academics to feel much more comfortable doing on-campus research in the office than working outside. Traditional academic structures tend to reinforce isolation amongst academics and external stakeholders. Therefore, structural adjustment is required to create a healthy engagement environment that allows academics and external stakeholders to work together in achieving the integration of the core functions. The formation of entities, industry chair/other forms of chairs and hubs of convergence assist in flattening the hierarchical relationships between academics and external stakeholder and create a free flow of information.”
Prof. Mahlomaholo, the Research Professor from the University of Mpumalanga delivered the closing remarks. He highlighted that Prof de Lange’s lecture has enabled delegates to understand what it means for a university to come to its fullness by responding to community needs.
When conveying the vote of thanks, Professor Joseph Francis, Director Institute for Rural Development, appreciated the participation of colleagues. A special vote of thanks conveyed to Professor de Lange for an insightful presentation, stressing that the lecture provided several ingredients for an engaged campus which is crucial to UNIVEN in its first year of implementing its new Strategic Plan 2021-2025 that placed engaged scholarship at the centre of all its activities.
The presentation is useful for UNIVEN to take the lessons learned and to encore on existing strength to take the institution forward.
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