[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Impressive Univ of Joburg research poaching
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Jan 20 21:54:21 GMT 2009
UJ's brain-gain battle with Wits
MONAKO DIBETLE - Jan 19 2009 06:00
Wits University's illustrious education policy unit (EPU) is considering
relocating lock, stock and barrel to the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
This week UJ's deputy vice-chancellor for research, Professor Adam
Habib, confirmed that the EPU had approached UJ about a possible
relocation and that UJ had made an offer that would see the whole unit
housed there. "It's now the EPU's decision," he told the Mail & Guardian.
UJ has been manoeuvring strongly to win a coveted place among the
country's top five universities, partly by beefing up its research
capacity. Habib said that in the year since he joined UJ he has been
approached by a number of individuals and units, at Wits and elsewhere,
about joining UJ.
Wits vice-chancellor Loyiso Nongxa denied knowing of any impending EPU
move and expressed "surprise" at the M&G query. "We are not aware of any
official submission made by our EPU regarding a definitively different
future," he said.
Nongxa said he endorsed Dr Shireen Motala, director of the EPU, in her
response to the M&G that "the EPU continues to be at Wits with business
as usual". The idea of the EPU moving is "pure speculation, mischievous
and could jeopardise the good relations that the EPU enjoys with Wits
and UJ," Motala said.
Mary Metcalfe, head of the school of education, where the EPU is
located, refused to countenance the possibility of losing the unit: "The
Wits EPU is firmly part of Wits and will continue to be. If an
individual in the EPU chooses to resign and move to UJ we would regret
the departure, but the Wits EPU will continue and the projects under way
The unit was founded in 1987 as a joint venture between Wits and the
then National Education Coordinating Committee to research
post-apartheid education policy. In recent years it has provided policy
support, research and analysis to government departments and has focused
strongly on education rights.
"If I were in Wits's position I would be concerned. The EPU is important
… for its historical link to the democratisation of this country," said
John Pampallis, head of the Centre for Education Policy Development. The
unit's move would be a "loss for Wits but a great gain for UJ", he said.
The M&G understands that the extent of Wits's financing of the EPU,
which largely relies on donor funding, is a major factor in its possible
migration. But the unit's "financial arrangements have been under review
within the faculty for some time now", Nongxa said.
Habib confirmed that UJ was actively enhancing its research capacity and
said "it is good for academics to be wanted by universities because they
have been taken for granted for too long ... There is always competition
UJ recently introduced a grant of R5-million for senior research
professorship and has, in the past year, attracted top academics from
Wits and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Those who migrated from Wits are sociologist Sakhela Buhlungu and
political analyst Xolela Mangcu. UKZN has lost anthropologist David
Moore, political scientist Lawrence Hamilton and media and cultural
studies expert Jenny Clarence Fincham.
"Wits is not aware of an exodus," Nongxa said. "Given the particular
sets of skills that [Wits staff] represent, it would be unusual for
there to be no movement of staff."
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