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​SU Archive – our University's institutional memory bank​SU Archive – our University's institutional memory bankCorporate Communications and Marketing (Sonika Lamprecht)<p>American writer and Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck once said: “If you want to understand today you have to search yesterday.” At Stellenbosch University (SU), an investigation into the history of the University would undoubtedly lead you to the SU Archive. In light of Heritage Month, the Corporate Communication and Marketing Division looked at the people, processes and infrastructure that preserve the history of the University.<br></p><p>The Archive was established in 1996 at the request of the former Rector, Prof Andreas van Wyk. The purpose of the Archive is to collect, preserve and make available resources related to the University and its predecessors, the Stellenbosch Gymnasium and Victoria College, to those interested.</p><p>According to Karlien Breedt who has been the head of the SU Archive since early 2011, there are several reasons and criteria that determine which documents are kept. “In many cases, we are required by law to keep documents such as administrative and financial records. Other documents are archived so that they can be made available for research. One often asks oneself the question: Will it be used in the future?”</p><p>Breedt and her colleague, Qobolakhe Bohta, staff the archive and are always looking for publications, photographs and documents that capture the history and heritage of the University.</p><p>The oldest document in the SU Archive is a minutes dating back to 1864 – even before the existence of the then Victoria College. “Although it has been restored, the contents of this document are unfortunately illegible. I suspect it contains information about the establishment of the then Stellenbosch Gymnasium,” says Breedt. Other documents include, among others, property rights, minutes of Council and Senate meetings, yearbooks, as well as minutes and records of faculties, departments and societies.</p><p>“We also have an awful lot of pictures of people, buildings and events,” Breedt says. “We have two major collections – the Watson-Lockley Collection which depicts the period from c. 1900 to 1960 and the Edrich Photo Collection which includes photographs from 1946 to 2000. Both of these collections include thousands of photographs depicting the academic and social life of the University.”</p><p>The Archives regularly receives donations when staff members retire. “We then have to work through all the documents, clippings and photos to see if there is anything of value. There are almost always boxes full of things in our storeroom that need to be processed,” says Breedt.</p><p>Although there is an inventory and database of all the documents housed in the Archive, it cannot currently be found with an online search. Many of the sources, such as all the editions of Matieland and the abovementioned collections of photographs, have already been digitised. The digitisation of resources is an ongoing process as it is a very efficient way of preserving information and making it more widely available. It is planned to increase the online findability of the material.</p><p>In order to preserve physical documents, the temperature is kept at a constant 18° C and the humidity is limited to 40–50% Relative humidity (RH). Regular inspections are also conducted to ensure that other pests do not damage the sources. According to Breedt, the frequent power outages due to load shedding are not ideal, but it helps a lot that the archive is housed in the storage space under the lecture hall on the first floor of the Krotoa Building because it helps to limit temperature fluctuations.</p><p style="color:#000000;font-family:"times new roman";font-size:medium;"></p><p>On 10 December 2010, a fire destroyed a large part of the Krotoa Building (then still the RW Wilcocks Building). Water used to extinguish the fire seeped through the floor above the archive, causing a lot of the photographic material to become mouldy. “With the restoration of the building, the Archive was also upgraded and equipped with, among other things, sliding racks and a new gas firefighting system," explains Breedt. The renovation work also led to the creation of research, exhibition and reading spaces.</p><p>Breedt and Bohta regularly receive requests for information that is used in the compilation of publications – be it a book on the University's buildings or 100th anniversary, or the centenary celebration of the Faculty of Science, or a thesis – the archive is a treasure trove.</p><p>Of course, the archival sources also include parts of SU’s history of which the University is not proud, but Breedt reminds us “that one must stay objective because those items have academic and research value”.</p><p>And between all the documents, minutes, clippings and photos, there are also things that amaze and sometimes make one giggle. “There are letters in which staff had to apply for permission to live outside the boundaries of the town,” Breedt laughs.</p><p>Another such example dates back to the early 1960s when trousers were not commonly worn by women. “During this time, students had to ask permission in advance if they had to travel to SU from afar by train and would be wearing trousers on their arrival at the University. That says something about the zeitgeist,” she reckons.</p><p><strong>Visiting the SU Archive </strong></p><p>The SU Archive can be visited by appointment. To make an appointment, follow this link: Archive visits</p><p>Visiting hours: Monday to Thursday: 08:30–13:00, 14:00–16:00; Friday: 08:30–13:00</p><p>The Archive is closed on weekends and public holidays, as well as between Christmas and New Year.<br></p><p><br></p>
SU geology student earns top presentation award at international conference geology student earns top presentation award at international conferenceFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p>​​​Research on the origin of gold deposits in the Kibali region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has earned a geology student at Stellenbosch University (SU) the best student presentation award at the biennial meeting of the <a href="">Society for Geology Applied (SGA) to Mineral Deposits</a> which took place in Zurich, Switzerland, recently.<br></p><p>Yann Mpaka Waku, a PhD student in <a href="/english/faculty/science/earthsciences/research/economic-geology">economic geology and mineral geochemistry</a> in the <a href="/english/faculty/science/earthsciences">Department of Earth Sciences</a> at SU, works fulltime as a geologist for <a href="">Barrick Gold Corporation</a> at Kibali Gold Mine in the north-east of the DRC. At <a href="">Kibali</a>, regarded as one of the largest gold mines in Africa, his role is to better understand the Archean gold deposit occurring in the Congo Craton shield in order to aid further exploration strategies. </p><p>Waku's research, under the supervision of Dr Bjorn von der Heyden, was presented in the session on “<a href="">Advances in analytical techniques applied for ore deposits research and mineral exploration</a>". In his talk he presents a novel approach to classify pyrites, combining traditional textural analysis, mineral trace elements chemistry, and a new tool for visualising high dimensional data called <a href="">Uniform Manifold Approximation and Projection</a> (UMAP).  </p><p>Waku explains that it is very difficult to decipher the timing and mechanisms of how gold was mineralised within Archean greenstone belts, such as the one found at Barberton in South Africa and at Kibali in the DRC, amongst others. These areas commonly experienced complex and protracted geological histories over millions of years.</p><p>That is why geologists have started to rather analyse the mineral chemistry of pyrites, as pyrites are the most abundant mineral in ore deposits hosting the gold. The Kibali gold district is no exception, with an abundant supply of pyrites in the various ore zones. </p><p>“We therefore analyse the trace element signatures in pyrites to better understand the conditions that gave rise to ore formation," he explains.</p><p>Waku analysed 91 samples from 26 diamond drill holes at eight different sites in the Kibali gold district by using a method called <a href="/english/research-innovation/caf/Pages/ICP-MS-%26-XRF.aspx">laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry</a> and secondary ion mass spectrometry. In practice, this means that a laser is used to ablate the in-situ minerals, after which their respective chemical and isotopic compositions are measured using a mass spectrometer. The large and rich datasets produced by these analyses were then subjected to further detailed investigation using dimensionality reduction and other “big data" techniques.</p><p>Using these big data techniques, he was able to categorise eight different types of pyrites (based on their chemical composition), thereby creating a better understanding of the conditions under which they were originally formed.</p><p>According to Waku, this novel approach will prove to become an important method to improve the classification and interpretation of trace elements in pyrite: “I believe our approach has the potential to revolutionise mineral chemistry, especially in the era of increasing big data acquisition," he concluded.<br></p><p><em>On the photo above, PhD student Yann Mpaka Waku. Photo credit: Wiida Basson</em>​</p>
Winning team combines computer science and data science skills in Data School Hackathon team combines computer science and data science skills in Data School HackathonFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p>A team consisting of two fourth year <a href="">Computer Science</a> students and one third year <a href="/english/datascience">BDat Science</a> student won first place in the annual Data School Hackathon, which took place in collaboration with Standard Bank Lab and Mobylaz in August this year.<br></p><p>Wicus van der Linden and Daniel van Zyl, both BSc Honours students in computer science, teamed up with Christiaan Hildebrand, a third year student in BDatScience, after they had first met each other as undergraduates in Majuba's Men's Residence in 2021. </p><p>Wicus says they were interested in taking part in a hackathon challenge oriented around data science, as they have not had as much exposure to machine learning and data science during their undergraduate studies.</p><p>“We knew each other well from time spent together in residence, and we were excited for the chance to prove ourselves in a more real-world orientated challenge," Wicus says.</p><p>This year the challenge posed to students was to investigate and analyse a set of telemetry data of various taxi vehicles insured by Mobalyz, aiming to gain insight into various characteristics such as driver behaviour, risk, or performance. The data included more than three million events, from ten different vehicles, with observations including g-forces, speed, and location, Wicus explains.</p><p>Teams were given ten days to submit their findings. From the more than 40 submissions from 25 teams, six teams were selected for a final round of presentations. Monetary prizes were available for each of the top three teams, as well as a bonus prize for <a href="">the best performing women's team</a>.</p><p>The winning team produced a decision-tree-based risk assessment model, classifying taxi driving behaviour based on similarity to known insurance claim information: “We made use of external datasets for features such as weather conditions and traffic information from Uber. We also analysed driver routes and parking behaviour to identify which vehicles had significant changes in their daily or weekly patterns, possibly indicating driver changes" Wicus explains.</p><p>According to Daniel, the hackathon exceeded all their expectations: “To be honest, it was fascinating to have the creative freedom on an open-ended task, and to have data to work with that had real-world implications and stakeholders. I think it really showed us how we as data scientists can get to work with different industries, people and datasets. And that even students can add value to a business market," he added.</p><p>The winning team also thanked the efforts made by the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, Standard Bank and Mobalyz to put together such an interesting challenge. </p><p>On the photo above: The winning team, from the left, Wicus van der Linden, Daniel van Zyl and Christiaan Hildebrand. Photo supplied<br></p><p>​<br></p>
New bursary donor centre elevates the importance of supporting student success bursary donor centre elevates the importance of supporting student successDevelopment & Alumni Relations<p>​​Stellenbosch University (SU) officially opened its Masiphumelele Centre on Thursday 31 August, signifying a significant milestone in the meaningful engagement between existing bursary donors and the recipients of their generosity, SU students. This accomplishment, championed by the Senior Director: Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) at SU, Karen Bruns, actively strengthens student access and success at the University.<br></p><p>Thursday's inauguration ceremony brought together bursary and scholarship donors, including the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the Crossley Foundation, Carl & Emily Fuchs Foundation, the Russel Botman Bursary Fund, Moshal Scholarship Programme, ISFAP, Feenix and Students for a Better Future, along with students and members of the SU community. </p><p>SU Registrar, Dr Ronel Retief, one of the speakers at the occasion, said education is the foundation upon which dreams are built, futures are shaped, and potential is realised. “We recognise that for our students to truly thrive, they need more than just financial support; they need an environment where they can grow, flourish, and connect. This Centre embodies that vision, providing a space for meaningful interactions between students, donors and the SU colleagues supporting the various programmes."   </p><p>Retief extended her gratitude to donors for their unwavering commitment to transform the lives of countless students. "You all are valued partners in the collaborative effort to help our students realise their aspirations. Together we are working towards opportunity, empowerment, and hope."</p><p><strong>'Let us succeed'</strong></p><p>The isiXhosa phrase 'masiphumelele', meaning 'let us succeed', inspired the name of the Centre, which originated from the efforts of the Development and Alumni Relations Division to extend its services to bursary and scholarship donors. The Masiphumelele Centre was funded through generous contributions from a number of donors.</p><p>This revitalised space on Banghoek Road, Stellenbosch, proximate to the engineering, arts and social sciences, law, and science faculties, offers an array of features, including office space, consultation rooms, flexible workspaces for students and donors, an area conducive to guiding conversations and mentorship, and a small workshop room accommodating 12 to 14 individuals.</p><p>Bruns emphasised the altruism of bursary donors who wholeheartedly support students' educational pursuits and ambitions. “The Centre represents a significant step towards enhancing the University's service to these critical supporters of the access and success of our students, while also underscoring our commitment to our students' holistic well-being and dignity."</p><p>The name 'Masiphumelele Centre' emerged as the clear choice through a survey conducted in May 2023 among bursary recipients, donors and staff who will be invited to use the space. Through sentiment analysis it was determined that students appreciated the unified vision of the University, the SU donors and fellow students to succeed and progress, with one respondent saying, “The Masiphumelele Centre will be for a community of individuals who wish to work together for a better future." Another student said, “Masiphumelele is a call for all people to come together for a common purpose, which is to thrive, as all of us should."</p><p>Bruns, added, “The Division takes immense pride in fulfilling its responsibility of facilitating institutional engagement between donors and the beneficiaries of their generosity. The Masiphumelele Centre will be instrumental in creating a physical space for collaboration and a common purpose. As a testament to SU's dedication to nurturing these essential relationships with donors, the Centre is symbolic of both our commitment to a good donor experience and to our student success."</p><p><strong>About</strong> <strong>Development and Alumni Relations (DAR)</strong></p><p>The Development and Alumni Relations Division builds relationships, creates awareness and generates support for the University's academic, research and social impact vision. The Division strives to ensure the future success of SU by securing private philanthropic donations and engages donors on the priorities most important to them. Putting donors at the centre of the process, DAR fosters an environment where excellence in student, staff and community interaction can be achieved through philanthropy and corporate funding.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Casual Day: We need a society truly inclusive of people with disabilities Day: We need a society truly inclusive of people with disabilitiesCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking<p>​Casual Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in September (1 September in 2023). In opinion pieces for the media, staff at the Disability Unit at Stellenbosch University emphasise the importance of creating an inclusive society where people with disabilities can thrive. Click on the links below to read the articles:<br></p><ul><li>Luigia Nicholas (<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Cape Times</strong></a>)<br></li><li>Marcia Lyner-Cleophas, Claudia Saunderson & Lizelle Apollis (<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Mail & Guardian</strong></a>)<br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>
Stellenbosch University installs sanitary pad dispensing machines on campus University installs sanitary pad dispensing machines on campusDevelopment & Alumni Relations<p></p><p>​Stellenbosch University (SU) has taken a significant step towards eradicating period poverty by installing state-of-the-art sanitary pad dispensing machines on campus. The installation was made possible by the generous financial support of a UK-based donor.<br></p><p>Two units have been installed on the Stellenbosch campus, and a third unit will be set up on the Tygerberg campus in Bellville in the coming weeks.</p><p>In South Africa, period poverty affects more than seven million young women, forcing many to choose between buying food or sanitary products. Many female students at SU also share this experience, lacking sufficient resources to access these products, which in turn unduly impacts their education, physical health, and mental well-being.</p><p>To tackle this issue on SU's campuses, the Development and Alumni Relations Division launched the #EndPeriodPoverty initiative as part of the University's Bridge The Gap Annual Fund (BTG). #EndPeriodPoverty aims to raise funds to purchase sanitary pad dispensing machines to address the stigma around menstruation and provide students with dignified access to female hygiene products.</p><p>"For the pilot phase, we have opted to purchase two large dispensing machines for our Stellenbosch campus that will dispense a total of 1 000 packs of pads a month and a smaller machine for our Tygerberg campus that will dispense 100 packs a month. Each pack contains eight locally manufactured, biodegradable sanitary pads. The machines will be refilled on a monthly basis," says Viwe Benxa, Alumni Relations Co-ordinator and BTG ambassador.</p><p>"Our students will be able to access the pads by tapping their student identity cards. In using the student identity card, we will be able to track the usage and determine the demand for the products which will subsequently inform our decision to make more machines available at more locations on our campuses."</p><p>The dispensing machines are strategically located in areas easily accessible to female students. For the Stellenbosch campus, the two locations are the Jan Mouton Learning Centre and outside the Tinie Louw Hall.</p><p>"We are hoping to raise enough funds for the next two installations earmarked for our Saldanha campus," Benxa adds. </p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li>Visit <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong></strong></a> to support this initiative.<br></li></ul>
SU tops the ranks in SA Tertiary Mathematics Olympiad tops the ranks in SA Tertiary Mathematics OlympiadFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p>​​Stellenbosch University (SU) came out tops at the <a href="">South African Tertiary Mathematics Olympiad</a> recently, with six SU students ranked in the top 12.</p><p>Nearly 300 students from 17 universities participated, and the average performance was 3.7 out of 20 (18.5%). To make it into the ranks of the top 12, you had to obtain at least 12 marks out of 20.  </p><p>Benjamin Kleyn, a first-year student in mathematical sciences from SU, earned second place with 16 out of 20, followed by Kerry Porrill, Andrew Williams, Danielle Kleyn, Karlo Grobbelaar and Jean Weight, also in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.<br></p><p>In terms of university rankings, the top five universities were SU, followed by the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria, ADA University in Azerbaijan, and the University of Zululand.</p><p>Prof Louise Warnich, Dean of the Faculty of Science, congratulated the students with their remarkable achievement, and thanked Dr Liam Baker from the Mathematics Division for his support in helping the students to thrive in these competitions.</p><p>On the photo, from left to right, Danielle Kleyn, Benjamin Kleyn, Dr Liam Baker, Jean Weight, Andrew Williams and Kerry Porrill. Karlo Grobbelaar was absent when the photo was taken). Photo: Wiida Basson​</p><p><br></p>
SU making a meaningful contribution that will take humanity forward - Rector at sport summit making a meaningful contribution that will take humanity forward - Rector at sport summitCorporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking<p>​​“We want to be relevant to the people of our country, continent and the rest of the world, and we want to make a meaningful contribution that will take humanity forward. And sport is part of this vision."<br></p><p>This is according to Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU) who took part in a panel discussion at the ISPS Sports Values Summit-Special Edition in Japan this week. </p><p>De Villiers and the SU Choir were invited by His Excellency Dr Haruhisa Handa, a renowned international philanthropist who is known for his longstanding commitment and contributions to public service and charities across the world, to take part in the summit. </p><p>The summit brought together sporting legends Dan Carter (former All Black rugby player), Nacho Figueras (one of the world's greatest polo players) and Steve James (Royal Australian Navy veteran and Invictus gold medallist). They were in conversation as panellists alongside Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, who attended as the co‑founder and patron of <a href="">Sentebale</a> to discuss ways in which the power of sport can change lives and the impact of sports for philanthropy on the global stage.</p><p>De Villiers said that the University “shares some of its values with that of the Olympic and Paralympic family including Excellence, Respect and Equity."</p><p>SU considers sport as a strategic asset and as an important part of the University's value proposition – offering 31 sporting codes, supported by a diverse human resource team and world-class facilities. </p><p>Social impact is one of the strategic themes of the University, supported by Maties Sport – to aid in advancing knowledge whilst being of service to society – especially in surrounding communities, added De Villiers. Initiatives include school holiday programmes, sports clinics and equipping learners with life skills like resilience, determination, courage and self-belief. </p><p>With Maties Sport having a long history of sporting excellence in disability and parasport, producing many household names, learners are also exposed to sport for persons with disabilities. </p><p><strong>Dr Haruhisa Handa</strong></p><p>Handa's support of various causes over several decades spans the arts and education, access to healthcare, disaster relief, empowerment of disabled individuals through sports, HIV/Aids education in Africa, promotion of democracy, religious tolerance and many other fields.</p><p>Notably, Handa serves as the co-founder and chancellor of the University of Cambodia with His Excellency Dr Kao Kim Hourn, the incumbent Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Handa has also been a major supporter of multiple universities in the UK, China, the US, Australia, Japan and South Africa. Handa's International Sport Promotion Society (ISPS Handa) will be hosting the ISPS Sports Values Summit-Special Edition 2023.</p><p>Earlier this week, De Villiers said that the invitation from the founder and chairman of ISPS to participate in the summit gives SU the opportunity to make meaningful connections, and to contribute to the discussions with other distinguished participants at the summit.</p><p>“Stellenbosch University is committed to achieve excellence and to advance knowledge in service of society, and I believe we share a common vision with Dr Handa in making a positive impact on society."</p><p><strong>SU Choir bringing hope</strong></p><p>SU Choir conductor André van der Merwe said they were honoured to receive the invitation. “It is interesting how choral singing speaks to an international audience like this. I believe it is the diversity of our choir that inspires people. The choir is a microcosmos of the South African community and they have a unique energy. It is wonderful that they are getting recognition on this level and that we have the opportunity to bring hope to people."</p><p>The SU Choir has been ranked the leading mixed amateur choir in the world for the past 11 years by <a href="">Interkultur</a>, organisers of the World Choir Games.</p><p>The SU Choir also shared a light-hearted moment with Prince Harry when he met with them backstage. He encouraged them to “keep sharing the love". Van der Merwe thanked him for sharing some time with them after which they engaged in a group hug upon Prince Harry's request. </p><p>Earlier this week, SU representatives met with Mr Noriyuki Tanaka, Group Leader at Toyota Tsusho and Project General Manager for Africa, and his team at their head office in Tokyo, Japan. </p><p>Here, De Villiers spoke about the significance of arts and culture and detailed how many SU projects have received support from Toyota over time. Members of the choir joined the lunch meeting and gave a performance as an expression of the University's gratitude.</p><p>Tanaka welcomed the representatives at Toyota's head office and confirmed the company's support of the <a href="">Toyota US Woordfees</a>. Ms Saartjie Botha, Director, presented Tanaka with the Woordfees festival book, and suggested that he might want to visit SU when he next travels to South Africa.<br></p><ul><li><em>Photo: Prof Wim De Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Haruhisa Handa, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, Mr Andre van der Merwe, conductor of the SU Choir, and choir members</em><br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>
SU marine biologists scoop top awards at SASAqS conference marine biologists scoop top awards at SASAqS conferenceFaculty of Science (media and communication)<p></p><p>Two Stellenbosch University (SU) students walked away with the best oral presentation and the best poster awards at the recent annual congress of the Southern African Society for Aquatic Scientists (SASAqS).</p><p>PhD student Katie Watson's presentation on the restoration of seagrass meadows at Langebaan earned her the best presentation award, while Bianca Boshoff's poster on the role of seagrass meadows in the accumulation of microplastics in the Knysna Estuary earned her the best poster award.</p><p>Both are postgraduate students in the research group of <a href="">Prof. Sophie von der Heyden</a> in the <a href="/english/faculty/science/botany-zoology/Pages/default.aspx">Department of Botany and Zoology</a> at SU. And both are conducting their research as part of <a href="">Project SeaStore</a>, a multidisciplinary effort to potentially restore degraded and endangered seagrass meadows along South Africa's coastline. </p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Seagrass_banner.png" alt="Seagrass_banner.png" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>Katie says her research explores the restoration potential of the seagrass species <em>Zostera capensis</em>, using seagrass meadows in Langebaan Lagoon as a starting point. “From previous research, we knew that while this species is fast-growing, it does not colonise easily. So we transplanted cores and anchored shoots in differing planting arrangements across several sub-sites within Langebaan Lagoon," she explains.</p><p>Preliminary results indicate that differences in the subsites had a more significant impact on the survival and persistence of the transplanted seagrass than planting arrangement or transplant material.</p><p>Her findings have important implications for our understanding of the colonisation potential of <em>Z. capensis</em> and will help to optimise transplantation efforts. Katie is also part of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Seagrass Species Specialist Group, working to update Red List Assessments for southern African seagrass species.</p><p>“Contributing to seagrass restoration research is hugely rewarding, especially with an endangered species. Conserving seagrass meadows in South Africa is crucial to preserving the ecosystem functions seagrasses provide, and active restoration is a tool that will enable us to prevent further seagrass declines," she adds.</p><p>She is an avid underwater photographer and communicates her work on social media platforms such as Instagram (<a href="">underwaterwithkatie</a>) and Twitter (<a href="">@KatieMWatson</a>_).</p><p>For her postgraduate studies, Bianca wants to determine whether seagrass meadows serve as filters of microplastics from the surrounding environment, as well as potential reservoirs or sinks of microplastics. She has already co-authored a research article based on results from her BSc Honours project, titled “<a href="">The role of seagrass meadows in the accumulation of microplastics: insights from a South African estuary</a>" published in the journal <em>Marine Pollution Bulletin</em>, and is now in the final year of her MSc studies.</p><p>“I am motivated by trying to find solutions for the severe plastic pollution problem we are facing. It is also interesting to be confronted with such a young concept, namely microplastics and their seemingly ubiquitous existence. We need to use every research opportunity to understand the implications of this problem," she concludes.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Preparing lecturers, students for a digital future — Prof Deresh Ramjugernath lecturers, students for a digital future — Prof Deresh RamjugernathDeresh Ramjugernath<p>​By embracing digitisation, tertiary institutions have been able to enhance access to information, promote collaboration and communication, personalize learning experiences, provide flexibility in education, and prepare students for a digital future. This is the view of Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Stellenbosch University, in an article for <em>University World News</em> (29 June 2023).</p><ul><li>Read the original article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.</li></ul><p><strong>​Deresh Ramjugernath*</strong><br></p><p>We live in a time of unprecedented evolution and transformation in mankind's history. There have been more innovations, technology strides, and evolution in all sectors of the economy and society in the last 50 years, than cumulatively over the thousands of years of humanity's history preceding this period. The rate of evolution in all sectors appears to be accelerating and it is no different for higher education, and teaching and learning in particular. We have seen a digital transformation of all facets of our lives and digitisation has been one of the many changes that has significantly impacted teaching and learning. In addition, it has become a necessity to be digitally literate to actively participate in the evolving sectors of the economy. </p><p>During the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities around the world had to rapidly pivot to remote or hybrid learning, and digital learning and teaching models to help slow the spread of the virus whilst still providing quality education to students. This required lecturers and students to quickly adapt to new technologies and platforms for communication and learning. </p><p>At this point, digitisation was not a new concept; however, higher education was still preparing for new automated ways of doing things. Then came the pandemic, which accelerated the need to use technology so that teaching and learning could continue. This pivotal moment in our history has led to changes that will continue well into the future. Digitisation has no doubt had a significant impact on teaching and learning, transforming traditional educational practices and opening new opportunities. </p><p>Not only has the internet made a vast amount of information readily available to students and lecturers, but students can now also access more resources, in addition to what was available pre-pandemic by way of textbooks, articles, videos, and online courses, allowing them to explore topics in depth and at their own pace.</p><p>Digitisation has also enabled collaboration and communication between students and lecturers irrespective of their geographical locations. Online platforms, video conferencing tools, and learning management systems facilitate real-time interactions, virtual discussions, and group projects. This promotes collaborative learning, teamwork, and global connections.</p><p>Personalized, flexible, and broader access to learning is another benefit of digitisation that has enabled students to learn at their own pace, focus on their specific areas of improvement, and engage with content that matches their learning style. Students with disabilities for example, are now being enabled to access educational materials as well as participate in online activities.</p><p>The move to digitisation has also enabled the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data related to student performance, engagement, and learning patterns. This data can be leveraged to identify areas of improvement, track progress, and make informed instructional decisions. Lecturers can use learning analytics to assess the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and adapt their approaches accordingly.</p><p>In preparation for the digital age, Stellenbosch University (SU) created new learning spaces that were custom-designed to cater for the interactive and hybrid-learning pedagogies of a digital-first world.</p><p>Our Jan Mouton Learning Centre is one such contemporary, multifunctional learning and teaching facility on our Stellenbosch campus. It houses state-of-the-art technology for future-oriented lectures, livestreaming, conferencing, and group work, setting the benchmark for future learning and teaching buildings on our different campuses.</p><p>Augmented learning is also part of our academic renewal strategy. The Extended Learning Spaces (ELS) project makes augmented learning a reality. With ELS, we provide all schedulable lecture venues with audio-visual equipment and systems to enable lecturers to stream their lectures to online students while also teaching to students present in class. The intention is to provide online students with an interactive learning experience comparable to face-to-face attendance, as well as to reach new student markets. </p><p>It is, however, important to note that digitisation also presents challenges such as the digital divide, information overload, and the need for digital literacy skills in a developing country like South Africa. Ensuring equitable access to technology and fostering digital literacy are crucial to harnessing the full potential of digitisation in education. Teaching students for a job in a digital future requires a combination of technical skills, critical thinking abilities, adaptability, and a strong foundational knowledge.</p><p>Further complicating the matter in South Africa is continuous loadshedding, which impacts on our ability to work, teach, and learn. It forces us once again to consider even better and more sustainable ways of working that do not widen the already large divide between those who have access to power and technology and those that do not.</p><p>We saw with the pandemic that universities globally that had already invested in technology and infrastructure to support online learning and trained their faculty and students on how to use these technologies effectively were better prepared for the digitalisation of teaching and learning. These universities were able to make a smooth transition to remote teaching and learning without comprising quality.</p><p>On the other hand, universities that were not as prepared may have faced even more challenges. They may have struggled with outdated technology, limited resources, and a lack of experience with online teaching and learning. Consequently, these institutions may have had to make significant investments in technology and infrastructure to support remote teaching and learning and may have had to provide additional training to their faculty and students.</p><p>Similarly, if South Africa wants to keep pace with the rest of the world, we not only need to keep advancing digitally, but we also need to be able to adapt our teaching methods to prepare for the disruption of regular operations, and limited access to technology and instructional resources. </p><p>It is worth noting that the impact of the current electricity crisis on teaching and learning in universities will depend on its severity and duration, as well as institutions' preparedness and ability to implement contingency plans. At SU, we have taken proactive measures, such as investing in backup power systems, promoting energy efficiency, and developing sustainable campus infrastructure. These have helped us to mitigate the effects of an electricity crisis on teaching and learning whilst maintaining our ability to improve our digital offering. </p><p>In conclusion, universities across the world have made significant adaptations to embrace digitisation and leverage their potential in transforming teaching and learning. The rapid advancement of technology and the availability of online resources have driven universities to reimagine traditional educational practices and adopt innovative approaches. By harnessing the power of digitisation, tertiary institutions have been able to enhance access to information, promote collaboration and communication, personalize learning experiences, and provide flexibility in education.</p><p>By embracing digitisation, universities have transformed the educational landscape, fostering innovation, collaboration, and lifelong learning opportunities for students, while also preparing them for the digital future that awaits them beyond the walls of academia.</p><p><strong>*Professor Deresh Ramjugernath is Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching </strong><strong> </strong><strong>at Stellenbosch University.</strong></p><p>​<br></p>