- Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 09:31
- Written by Alex Nagel
On Wednesday 1st August, UCT hosted an Inaugural Lecture as a tribute to Professor Jennifer Case for her work in the field of Engineering Education Research.
Professor Case is renowned as both an academic and a teacher which she explains as being more of an “art and craft rather than a science”. She explains how her field of Educational Research sometimes “feels like the SPCA of the university”. This is in spite of the fact that South Africa is in “desperate need of a much more educated population”.
Professor Case highlights how education is a necessity for both individual and structural stimulation in a democracy.
Education is essential because it “goes to the heart of what it is to be human”. This is a serious matter for today’s youth who are constantly staring into the “face of a world that is seduced by glits and glamour”.
According to statistics gathered by Professor Case in her research, only 66% of students graduated from UCT with an Engineering degree in 2011. With more applicants than graduates, challenging questions such as “what happened to students’ aspirations when they entered our programmes?” and “if we wish to change the outcomes, how would we get there?” needs to be answered.
The graduation results tended towards “who has the goodies and who hasn’t”. She continues to explain how our life chances and birth can either constrain or enable the choices made for Higher Education.
UCT’s Chemical Engineering curriculum is extremely challenging and places “exclusive demands on students”, explains Professor Case. “It is a sprint and if you trip up, you will find yourself back at the starting line in the new year”, she continues.
South African Higher Education institutions need to take on the role of aiding students in their development by teaching them how to engage with the knowledge taught to them. This will give students the “confidence to face anything in the working world”.
Despite the “inconvenient truth for many” on the fact that there are a high number of white students graduating with the Chemical Engineering degree, we need to be focusing on what we can be doing “practically for a publically funded university in the 21st century”.
The Engineering department has found a way to break the ice amongst first years by sending them on a weekend-long camp in order for them to build companionships amongst one another.
The department is also working on a four year undergraduate programme where space is being created in timetables for more electives. “This gives Chemical Engineering students a chance to pursue other interests’, says Professor Case.
The course will also “leave space for project work where they can build different programmes of knowledge”.
By being proactive, she emphasises how there will be a greater “success towards the programme”. It will also increase the “hope to have more students graduate” from UCT with a Chemical Engineering Degree.