A new perspective on research leadership at Tuks

Posted on November 30, 2015

As the challenges we face in the world, and especially in Africa, become more complex, a different style of science leadership is required. The Tuks Young Research Leader Programme (TYRLP) was launched to address this. The programme is an initiative of the University of Pretoria (UP) in partnership with the Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP), KnowInnovation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It serves early-career researchers in basic and applied science, engineering, social sciences, arts and the humanities, using a highly interactive approach to training, application of skills to leadership projects, peer support, and mentorship.

The TYRLP’s inaugural workshop was presented on 23 and 24 November 2015. Twenty-two fellows attended the two-day, intensive, on-site programme on UP’s Hatfield Campus. The process involved an approach that cycled between theory, application and reflection. Participants were challenged to work collaboratively to design initiatives that advance a new paradigm for their science.

Prof Yves van de Peer, who has joint appointments at VIB/Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Pretoria, joined the workshop on the first day as a provocateur. Prof Van De Peer shared his experiences with collaboration and interdisciplinary research, which provoked and stimulated many interesting discussions within groups. Two UP based ASLP fellows were also able to join the two-day TYRLP workshop. Eshchar Mizrachi (Department of Genetics and Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute) and Surette van Staden (Faculty of Education) participated in group discussions and acted as mentors to the fellows. 

The second day started off with an inspirational and powerful talk by Prof Stella Nkomo, who shared her view on the characteristics of a true scholar. She challenged the fellows to find their authentic scholarly voice as an essential part of their development as research leaders. Prof Cheryl de la Rey engaged with the fellows at the end of the second day. She was inspired by the initiatives that they had developed during the two days. In her closing remarks to the group, she encouraged them to embrace their role and responsibility as young scholars to transform the future of science scholarship and leadership. 

The leadership programme:

  • identifies early-career academics who have demonstrated leadership potential and an interest in developing key leadership skills,
  • supports them to apply the acquired skills to projects that are relevant to the development of their academic career and its impact,
  • creates a network of early-career academic leaders at UP that spans disciplinary boundaries, and
  • advances a curriculum for academic leadership development, which can be utilised by others.

The workshop covered elements of:

  • Collective leadership
  • Creative and systems thinking
  • Development of effective networks
  • Stakeholder engagement for change
  • Maximising the efficiency and impact of collaborative efforts
  • Advanced dialogue and communication skills
  • Effective problem solving and decision making

The programme aims to form within the University a community of like-minded young researchers who possess qualities that will contribute towards UP becoming a leading research-intensive University, in line with the projected UP 2025 vision. Following this initial workshop, the ASLP team will engage with the TYRLP fellows for a year, sharing information on resources and stimulating further interaction.


- Author Smeetha Singh

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