Stellenbosch University (SU)'s new School for Data Science and Computational Thinking was officially launched on Monday (29 July 2019) at a function at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. Aiming to be a world-class institution for data science and computational thinking in and for Africa, the newly established School will work across SU's ten faculties with multi- and inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration. It will also span the entire academic project, from under- and postgraduate training to research and specialist consultation.
Speaking at the launch, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers described the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking as a game-changer in higher education, both in South Africa and beyond.
“Through our new School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, Stellenbosch University is ready to enhance South Africa's competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
“The School provides a single platform for collaboratively advancing knowledge in service of society – in an interdisciplinary way."
De Villiers said the world is changing fast, especially in terms of the gathering, sharing and exploitation of data and the new School is SU's stake in the unfolding future.
He added that new School is a tangible expression of SU's new Vision and Strategic Framework in terms of which the institution strives to be relevant to the people of South Africa, continent and the rest of the world, and making meaningful contributions of the highest quality that will take humanity forward.
Echoing De Villiers' sentiments, Dr Wim Delva, Acting Director of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, said the entity will connect people in government, business and non-profit organisations as they seek to use big data to address the challenges South Africa faces as a country.
In addition to offering online programmes that are future-proof, the School will provide a roadmap to prospective students of what they can study in the field of data science, added Delva.
He invited various societal role-players to partner with the School, saying we need to work together in utilising big data to the benefit of all South Africans.
In a video message, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande described the launch as a transformative and historic event for SU and higher education in South Africa. He said the government is particularly pleased that the School will offer distance and online tuition and help prepare students for a different and rapidly changing work environment.
“Our task as government and universities is to prepare our youth and adults for the skills of the future which include, among others, robotics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles and 3D-printing."
“The new world of work will be a place where the discovery of useful knowledge from data will become integral to most of what students will do in future," added Nzimande.
- Click here for the Rector's speech.
- Click here for the Rector's opinion piece on big data as a game-changer for higher education.
- Click here for Dr Wim Delva's article on data science in Africa.
Photo: Dr Wim Delva, Acting Director of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, speaking at the launch. Photographer: Stefan Els