A diverse audience gathered at the Wits Theatre on Thursday August 23 for the first TedxWitsUniversity event. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, and has grown to become a global non-profit organisation.
To achieve the proposed top 100 ranking in the next 10 years Wits needs to address issues that other more established European and American institutions do not face, according to the university’s Strategic Planning Division (SPD).
On its website, the SPD said the university needs to address these specifically African complications in order to reach the prestigious spot and compared the challenge of maintaining league table rankings to “operating on shifting sand”.
Reaching the top 100 spot will require continuous improvement of the quality of Wits’ teaching and research outputs according to the SPD’s Vision 2022 strategic framework.
One of the ways the university hopes to achieve this is by upgrading and building more facilities that are capable of generating a higher standard of research projects.
This in turn will attract highly talented students from around the world and provide an exceptional student-centred and research-driven experience.
Wits also plans to increase improve postgraduate enrolment said Prof Loyiso Nongxa, Vice Chancellor. Nongxa said all the planned improvements require greater financial investment and the university had set aside R1.2-billion for infrastructure development. Nongxa said the programme is starting to show results.
The Wits Art Museum, located at University Corner is set to open on May 19. The urban regeneration project cost the university R40 million and will showcase some of the 9 000 African artworks collected over the university’s 90 years.
The student residence in Parktown, Wits Junction, cost R511 million and is expected to raise the residence capacity of Wits campus by 25%.
Wits has also completed the FNB Building, the New Science Stadium and the upgrade to the Chamber of Mines Building since the project’s introduction by the vice chancellor when it began in 2007.
The implementation of these building projects is aimed at consolidating the university’s status as an intellectual powerhouse by 2015, according to an SPD statement.
Wits is currently ranked 251-275, alongside Stellenbosch university, according to the Times Higher Education World Rankings (THES).
On its website the SPD outlines some of the challenges African countries encounter when competing for ranking in systems such as THES.
These ranking systems can be ignorant of social and economical contexts; tend to focus on research in hard sciences rather than other subjects; rank universities on general rather than specific institutional performances and rely heavily on public perception.
Wits has invested substantively in technologies that make its core functions of the generation, custodianship and transmission of knowledge easier. But how far has it come?
The first computer owned by a South African university occupied a large part of the first floor of Senate House and had the same processing capacity as a cellphone.
Today, more than 80% of Witsies have access to mobile computing devices according to Professor Yunus Ballim, deputy vice chancellor of knowledge and information management. Last year, the Wits senate resolved that all students from 2nd year upwards will own a mobile computing device.
The Student Computers and Networks initiative will facilitate this plan. Ballim said it was “unacceptable” that poor students were left out and the university plans to engage the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to invest in devices that may offset the cost of textbooks and lecture notes.
Ballim said Wits provides “fairly free” internet access for staff and students, but the Parktown campuses do not have this yet. A R16-million project is under way to instal a fiber cable that will improve the quality of access on the Parktown campuses.
“I think the reality is that the modern university from a research point of view cannot do without high quality internet access. We’re not where we should be but we certainly are getting there,” Ballim said.
The current situation
Kgomotso Selowa, 2nd year engineering, said he enjoyed the virtually uncapped internet that some other universities did not provide, but that the computers were slow.
Otshepeng Letlape, 2nd year BA visual and performance, said she does not use the labs since she got a laptop because she found them crowded and the printers and fans were often not working.
Despite these conditions, there are some students who find the labs helpful. Shalini Lala, 2nd year applied maths, said “some people don’t have access to the internet at home” and the labs are “convenient for many”.
Ballim said the Science Stadium was a learning curve on how technologies can make learning in large classes more effective.
“One of the challenges is getting people used to chalk to use an electronic touch pad with a projector,” he said.
HIGHER ACCESS: A student hard at work outside the CNS computer labs using the wireless network provided by Wits to students for free. The university provided cushions to make the concrete seats more comfortable. Photo: Nandi Ndlazi
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 13th edition, 11th May 2012.
The 13th edition of the Vuvuzela has a new design!
The image is a photographic composite of an image from the Wits Archives of political activity on campus, right, and life at Wits now, left. In this edition, we took a look back at how the university has evolved to its present state, and what it is doing to become one of the top 100 universities in the world.
Women at Wits have been at the forefront of many “firsts” including changes to the sports landscape at Wits and in South Africa.
Since 1920 Wits has produced more than 200 Springboks from over 40 different sports clubs.
The Athletics Club, established in 1920, was Wits’ first sports club. One of the club’s stars was Sonja Laxton.
Laxton became the first female athlete to be chosen as a Springbok to compete for track, marathon and cross country. She was inducted into the Runner’s World Magazine Hall of Fame in 2007.
Before 1923 Wits female athletes could only compete in individual sports or in the men’s team as there were not enough women to form complete teams.
The establishment of the National Women’s Hockey Club in 1923 cemented women’s place in Wits team sports. Two of the first Wits female hockey players are recorded as “Miss Brown” and “Miss Haviland”.
In 1923 Jennie Jacobson became the first Wits female hockey player to become a Springbok.
The all-women’s tennis team did not enjoy much success in its early days; however there were some successful players. Charleen Rigby was one of the club’s stars. She was awarded national colours and is a Full Blue (full Wits colours).
The women’s basketball team was established in 1975 and produced numerous stars. Fiona Duncan was regarded as “a star” basketball player and was awarded Wits full sports colours or Full Blue for seven years from 1979-1985.
In the 1961 Fencing championships, Wits women were ranked first. Suzanne de Villiers, a former Witsie, represented South Africa in the national hockey side against England in 1956.
Wits currently has 13 women playing at national level and there are currently 2 855 women playing across 37 Wits sports clubs.
In this episode we take a look at the work of Joburg Theatre, through the eyes of the people that work at there. Justine, who has been at the theatre for more than 20 years, walks us through its history, and Mbongeni, a ballet dancer, tells us how he came to make this beautiful theatre […]