Rhodes Ichthyology Maintains International Standards
November 25, 2005
By Richard Flockemann
Rhodes' Department of Ichythology and Fishery Science (DIFS) has links with many institutions both overseas and in the rest of Africa, which Associate Professor Tony Booth feels is invaluable in maintaining and improving the standard of education in the department.
Within the field of Ichthyology and Fishery Science, Rhodes' Department of Ichthyology and Fishery Science (DIFS) is the only academic department in Africa, and - academic-wise - it is also the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, with the largest dedicated library, says Associate Professor Tony Booth.
The DIFS has cooperation agreements or research partnership links with a great deal of the SADEC countries on Great Lakes, or which have access to oceans. Such countries include Malawi, Uganda, Tunisia, Kenya and Namibia. Of the postgraduate students currently in the department, there is a high proportion of international students, especially at Masters and PhD levels. Of the ten students currently doing an Honours degree in Ichthyology and Fishery Science, there is one Namibian amongst a predominantly South African class, while of the current masters students, 4 out of the 14 are from a foreign country, whilst of the 11 PhD students currently with the DIFS, 8 are foreign nationals.
The DIFS has a number of former Masters or PhD students now placed in prominent positions within the field of Ichthyology or Fishery Science, including the Principle of the Malawi Fisheries College, the Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Centre in Tasmania, the Principle of Bunda College in Malawi, the Director of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, the Managing Director of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, the Director of Ushaka Marine World in Durban, and a current Professor at the School of Fisheries, in Washington, USA. In general the DIFS has a high success rate of employment, with approximately 85% of all former Rhodes Masters or PhD Ichthyology students from 1981 onwards, being presently employed in Ichthyology management or education.
The DIFS keeps in contact with its former students, which, as Professor Booth explains, is a policy that greatly benefits current students. The department's strong links with former students and with foreign institutions means that present students will leave Rhodes "well networked" - which can be helpful in finding employment. According to Professor Booth, keeping in touch with former students now working in the field, both in South Africa and abroad, is also useful in that it helps the department "fine-tune" its courses. Past students are in a good position to judge which aspects of their course were useful, and which could be improved, and keeping in contact with their former students is partly why, Professor Booth feels, Rhodes' DIFS is successful.
Another important factor for Rhodes Ichthyology, he explains, is the research work the members of the department do - including a large amount of work in other African countries. The consulting work done by the department members gets integrated swiftly into the class room, allowing students to get a better feel for the workplace, and also helps them view their lecturers as "role-players" in the field, rather than merely passing on old information.
Professor Booth feels that the "different prospective" provided by the extensive links and contacts with foreign institutions is tremendously useful for students who wish to go into the field of Ichthyology. However, he feels this could be further improved in future, as the Rhodes Ichthyology department could benefit from more international lecturers, to provide their students with a firmer grasp on how the subject is approached in the rest of the world.
However, Professor Booth keeps international standards firmly in mind when setting curriculum; as he explains, the exams set by the Ichthyology department are often based on the exams set by international institutions - frequently exams set at a higher level. As a result, Professor Booth feels Rhodes Ichthyology students are in some ways more advanced than students at equivalent levels in other prominent academic institutions.