Q&A with Zeblon Vilakazi 

Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-chancellor and custodian of Wits University was one of the first African scholars to conduct PhD research at the European Centre for Nuclear Research. The nuclear physicist and Wits alumnus was recently appointed as a fellow of the the Royal Society in the United Kingdom (UK).  Wits Vuvuzela had a chance to have a candid chat with Vilikazi.   


Medicine admission criteria to change

The university is considering changing the admission criteria for medicine by doubling the percentage accepted on achievement alone, regardless of race.

Currently, 25% of top achievers are accepted regardless of race but recommendations would see that doubled. The remainder is presently allocated in favour of redressing racial disparities.

This is just one of a number of big changes presented at a public meeting to discuss the current and future admissions criteria to medicine on Tuesday night. The other two big changes are that 20% of places would be assigned to students who come from rural environments and applicants with undergraduate degrees would be considered equally regardless of what they previously graduated in.

“What am I doing here, then? I’ve wasted two years of my life,” one student complained. She is currently doing her undergraduate in health sciences. Many of the students there felt they had been encouraged to do these types of degrees in the hope that they would get preference to be accepted to medicine and were now being told this might change.

“A bachelor in health sciences is not a pre-med degree,” Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said.

“If you take students from here [rural areas] they are more likely to return, unlike urban students who end up leaving the country,” according to Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Andrew Crouch. He heads up the task team with Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Zeblon Vilakazi.

According to the university, about 8 000 people apply for the degree each year but only 230 receive firm offers, the majority coming from urban environments and middle class families. This excludes many applicants from rural areas, previously disadvantaged backgrounds and poor schools.

Habib said they are trying to maximise the production of doctors but are limited by infrastructure and resources. He advised that students apply for alternative degrees as “some very good people will not get placed”.

The task team is deciding if they will be able to implement the recommended criteria next year or wait until 2016. They will release their findings in a report at the end of this month.