Awards Dinner Honours Leading UKZN Researchers
Leading UKZN researchers were honoured at the annual Research Awards Gala Dinner in Durban.
Those recognised included 2012 and 2013 book prize winners, the Top 30 researchers, the Top Published Researcher, the Top Published Woman Researcher, the highest grant awardees, the 2014 NRF A-rated researchers, and University Fellows.
The recipients of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Lifetime Achievement, the World Academy of Science (TWAS) Lenovo Science Prize, South African Young Academy of Science nomination and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Women in Science Awards were also recognised.
Chief Director: Science Missions at the Department of Science and Technology Professor Yonah Seleti delivered the keynote address titled: “The Value of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Higher Education in the 21st Century”.
Seleti commended UKZN for being the first university on the continent to have an IKS policy and acknowledged it for committing resources to IKS.
He noted IKS initiatives underway including collaboration with Nestle to make vegetables from indigenous communities available on a global scale as well as current research into treatment for diabetes.
Seleti cautioned: ‘When people hear about Indigenous Knowledge Systems they only think of rituals and traditional healers and they do not actually look at the knowledge domains and the challenges and the world views that are behind Indigenous Knowledge Systems.’
Professor Jonathan Blackledge, UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, officially launched the 2013 Research Report which reflects on the University’s research highlights, developments and achievements.
Speaking at the event, Blackledge acknowledged the staggering amount of research being undertaken at UKZN. ‘2013 was a remarkable year for the University whose research productivity was compounded in a steady and sustained growth in terms of the number of publications, the postgraduate research throughput, the funding awarded and the participation in research by staff across the entire spectrum of the institute’s academic portfolio, making the University one of Africa’s premiere research focused centres of academic excellence,’ said Blackledge.
He listed the University’s ‘exceptional’ achievements over the past year. ‘The number of doctoral degrees awarded in 2013 increased by 24 percent compared to 2012, closely matched by an increase of 15 percent for Masters by Research awards.’
Funding from the NRF also increased by seven percent compared with 2012.
‘Indeed, in all aspects of the University’s research portfolio there has been a significant annual rise in research output as reflected in the Research Productivity Units of staff which increased by 13 percent over the same period,’ he said.
Blackledge outlined the University’s rankings: ‘The University has been ranked in the top two percent among the world’s leading academic institutions by the Centre for World University Rankings. The Academic Ranking of World Universities places us in the top three universities in Africa and we are now ranked 45th from a total of 700 universities according to the Times Higher Education’s first ranking of the BRICS and emerging economies universities.
‘Further, we are confident that for the second year running, UKZN will be ranked as the top university in South Africa for research productivity.’
Blackledge acknowledged the University’s duty to have a broad teaching and research portfolio that is dedicated to its students and their educational development. ‘Whether we are teaching first year undergraduates, supervising PhD students or mentoring post-doctoral students, as academics in one of the world’s leading universities, we have a duty to our students welfare and educational development. By helping them to the very best of our abilities, we help ourselves.’
Dean of University Research and Programme Director, Professor Urmilla Bob, acknowledged the hard work contained in the Research Report saying, ‘The Research Report is our pride and joy because in that text lies the blood, the sweat, the frustration which made so many research achievements possible.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning Professor Renuka Vithal delivered the vote of thanks and echoed Blackledge’s sentiments of the strong connection between teaching and learning and research.