Rhodes University partners with NRF to form pathways for postgraduate students

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Rhodes University partners with NRF to form pathways for postgraduate students.
Rhodes University partners with NRF to form pathways for postgraduate students.

In a bold move to articulate its ambition in postgraduate education, Rhodes University hosted an event to encourage third-year students to apply for Honours studies. The event was held at the Barrat Lecture Theatre on 18 August 2023 and was hosted by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, Dr Kwezi Mzilikazi.

This was a partnership between the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Rhodes University Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Centre for Postgraduate Studies. Dr Mzilikazi said the fundamental behind partnering with NRF was because it is the largest funder of postgraduate studies. Academic departments also attended and displayed their postgraduate offerings to prospective postgraduate students. 

The cocktail event was themed ‘Path to Postgrad’ and was targeted at third-year students in good academic standing (65% and above) who are most likely to qualify for entry in Honours and eligibility for NRF postgraduate bursaries. “The attendance was exceptional, with third-year students filling up the 400-seater Barrat Complex Lecture venue,” said Dr Mzilikazi.

She highlighted the importance of higher education studies – to train graduates with high-end skills for the labour market, a tool for social mobility and, therefore, social justice and knowledge production. “Postgraduate students are usually termed the ‘next generation of academics’ and are a critical component of the sustainability of the South African National System of Innovation. This event was therefore important for us as the University to create clear pathways for our prospective postgraduate students,” she added.

At the event, the Rhodes University postgraduate funding office shared information on different internal and external funding opportunities available for postgraduate studies, many of which are currently open for studies commencing in 2024. The NRF Acting Executive Director for Human and Infrastructure and Capacity Development, Mbulelo Ngcango, shared the NRF approach to funding postgraduate studies and the key criteria that may enhance the likelihood of success in postgraduate applications for funding. He indicated that the NRF is keen on funding students placed at rural universities, of which Rhodes University is one. 

Centre for Postgraduate Studies Director, Professor Sioux McKenna, provided information on the research development support available to all postgraduate students enrolled at Rhodes University. Dr Mzilikazi emphasised that growing the postgraduate numbers at Rhodes University would be collaborative between students, faculties, academic departments, the University support divisions, and external funding agencies. “The collaboration we envisage was on display at the event on Friday. We can only build and strengthen from there to ensure that we create a conducive environment and raise the appetite for our students not to get lost in the postgraduate pipeline. The University commits itself to growing funding in support of postgraduate studies,” concluded Dr Mzilikazi.