Closing the two-day TUT Transformation Summit 2017 held at the University on 12 & 13 September, Van Staden said the time for talking was over and he wanted to see transformative progress across the University for the rest of the year and in 2018. He said the whole TUT community should embrace transformation in solidarity with higher education in South Africa and the broader community.
He said the university was very aware that the majority of its students were from poor and rural backgrounds and that it existed for the good of society.
“As a university, we should also bring the Sustainable Development Goals into our University and domesticate the 17 SDGs at TUT,” said Van Staden. Referring to the Social Progress Index released during the UN General Assembly at its 72nd regular session this week, he said 795 million wake up hungry in the morning, 1.8 billion people globally drink contaminated water 1.2 billion people still do not have electricity, over 150 million of them in urban areas.
This, he said, should inform how TUT understood its task as a university. It should work together with communities to resolve national and local challenges and problems. “We should strive to become the custodian of the society where it exists.”
As a University it had to acknowledge the vacuum in global leadership that allows the perpetuation of such material deprivation and in the context of climate change the statistics could worsen even further. “In the context of this question, we should ask ourselves how we as a university can salvage the declining state of leadership in our society,” he said.
The issues if sustainability and resilience were looming large, said Van Staden and last week one of SA’s leading climate change experts, Prof Mary Scholes, said SA is getting warmer at twice the global average. This demanded that TUT increases its efforts in better analysing the environment and providing dependable, reliable and trustworthy responses to the fast approaching crisis.
Van Staden said TUT must maintain scientific integrity and nurture knowledge creation, validation and diffusion responsibilities, and must respond to the emerging alternate-fact thinking that was dominating locally and globally. Going forward, he said the university needed to focus on the continuum of knowledge from solving basic logic problems to engaging in deeper global issues.
As the university transformed, it had to take the Future of Work seriously in the face of digitisation, robotisation and artificial intelligence. The Institute for Economic Research and Innovation, in its role as chair of the Millennium Project of Southern Africa, is engaged in scenario work with both public and private sector role-players. “As a people’s university we will refocus and ensure that we contribute thought leadership based on our scientific and technological capabilities. We need to help our people in navigating this world-wide transition,” said the Vice-Chancellor.
During the summit various conversations were held with guest speakers and presentations held in parallel sessions, giving staff and students an opportunity to talk about transformation at the institution.
Students said they were major stakeholders and needed to be included in the various aspects and levels of transformation. Van Staden said he had heard their concerns and would work hard to enhance engagement with students to resolve ongoing challenges.
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