Driving the University’s Social Responsibility agenda: Professor Norman Duncan
'The University of Pretoria (UP) has a very extensive programme of social engagement for its students and this is one of the reasons why certain students prefer coming to UP. The students do not only study in class but have the opportunity to engage with the community,' said Prof Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal: Academic.
'On average per annum, we have at least 15 000 students involved in the community outreach programmes. More than 25% of the students have some engagement with the community,' said Prof Duncan.
That’s 15 000 students who are out in the real world, doing real work that benefits the communities around our campuses, and in the places where the need for this work is greatest. That is a formidable number of people.
Since 2014 Prof Duncan has been the Vice-Principal: Academic at the University, responsible for all nine faculties and GIBS. He focuses on promoting excellence in teaching and learning at the undergraduate level by overseeing academic plans and policy implementation.
The University’s social responsibility programme is his passion. It is a vital link between students and their community, a great opportunity to learn in the real environment and contribute to social equity.
'This programme has enormous educational value. When the students get involved in the community this engages them in the real world. This helps them to find their feet, and provides useful experience, that can be applied well beyond South Africa, if the student choses to go this route,' explained Prof Duncan.
Stepping out of the lecture hall, and into different work and social environments encourages students to adapt – an essential skill in the modern economy. It also broadens students’ perspectives on the world around them, and the role they can play in it.
'The students are not just going to communities to impart information or knowledge but they will learn very valuable life lessons. We don’t place the students in the community for their own benefit only, but for partnerships with the community. The University, the students and the community benefit in this partnership,' he added.
This programme is in line with UP’s vision to be a leading research‐intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, as also for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally.