In with the new, out with the old

Wits plans to employ 30 new A-grade lecturers but current lecturers are concerned this might create a “two-tier” university.

Wits has committed around R30-million for these new lecturers as part of its mission to improve the university’s research output and profile. The president of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) David Dickinson said even though the organisation supports the recruitment of top academics they were concerned about the way their appointment was being suggested.

“We don’t want them to be isolated from other academics and lecturers,” said Dickinson.
Dickinson said they did not want a situation that creates two types of lecturers: “First grade lecturers whose only responsibility is research and second grade lectures who take on all the responsibilities of teaching.”

Dickinson said at the moment it sounded as if the new lecturers would be coming in to focus mainly on research: “Asawu’s view is that workloads should be equally distributed to allow all Wits academics to be research active and that Wits should not be allowed to become a ‘two-tier university’.”

In a recent e-mail he sent to lecturers, Dickinson said a recent survey of Wits academics indicated they were often over-burdened with teaching and administrative responsibilities that “crowd out” research.

[pullquote align=”right”]“First grade lecturers whose only responsibility is research and second grade lectures who take on all the responsibilities of teaching.”[/pullquote]

The importance of research

According to Dinesh Balliah, a new media lecturer at Wits, lecturers are expected to perform in three areas – teaching, administration and research: “Research is the most important one as lecturers get promoted based on their research.”

In the email, Dickinson asked lecturers who felt strongly about the appointments to send him their views. In less than 24 hours he said he had received over 40 responses.
“Lecturers welcome the appointments but they have concerns about the responsibilities of the new lecturers,” said Dickinson.

The positions will be advertised in major newspapers from August 16 to August 29 this year.
Wits also planned to add 100 more postdoctoral fellows to the 117 already existing. It wants to become more of a postgraduate, research-driven institution. This would bring “fresh ideas into the university – and some extensions of existing post-docs that are highly productive,” said Robin Drennan, director of research development at Wits.