Rhodes University’s 9th Annual Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference was held on the 26 and 27 July 2018. The conference was opened by the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela, who urged those present to consider their role as critical citizens whose research should benefit society. The overarching theme of the conference was “Postgraduate Education is a Public Good”, with the sub-themes: Environmental Sustainability, Socio-economic Development, the 4th Industrial Revolution, and Blue-Sky Research. The conference provided a platform for postgraduate students from all faculties to share their research and to enjoy conversations across disciplinary boundaries.
With more than 70 presentations and over 170 participants, the conference provided a very informative space. The conference was a great learning experience for many, especially for those for whom it was their first time presenting at an academic conference. One of the presenters said, “I was so nervous and excited to see the Vice Chancellor at my presentation”. Many who came along just to attend said that the experience was inspiring and that they were looking forward to presenting their own work at next year’s conference. It was especially great to see a number of supervisors in attendance to support their student’s presentation.
The keynote speaker Ndumiso Dladla who is a lecturer of philosophy at UNISA and the author of a recent book, “Here is a Table: A philosophical Essay on the History of Race in South Africa” gave a very interesting presentation under the topic: Towards a post-conquest “Africa South” “Public” and “Higher Education”. The speech was timely given that the education system in South Africa has been confronted with calls for decolonization and criticism of racist forms of knowledge production.
The conference included a World Café discussion where the space was opened up for a reflective discussion about what it means to say that postgraduate education is a public good. The discussion was rich with people giving their interpretation of what the topic means and how they relate it to their own research and work. The discussion carried a common understanding among postgraduates that their work is not only for them and for their benefit but also contributes to wider society, to solving real world problems that the planet faces, and to building our collective knowledge.