WISH workshop Cape Town

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The WISH (Widening Success in Higher Education) workshop was help in Cape Town from the 10th to the 13th of October 2017. The workshop was a joint collaboration between the University of East London and The Cape Town University of Technology, and was funded by both the British Council and the National Research Fund. The workshop was geared towards looking into issues around access, success and student needs in higher education in both South Africa and the United Kingdom. One of the main focuses of the workshop was to build research links to promote extended collaboration between participants coming from the United Kingdom and those from South Africa.

As a South African participant it was wonderful to engage with academics and practitioners from both South Africa and the United Kingdom. This engagement saw intense conversations being had with much interest from both sides and a great deal of learning was had. Participation in the workshop started from the point of the application to attend. Potential participants were asked to develop two to three wicked questions around the themes of the workshop, these being access, success and student needs. Successful participants were then categorised into three groups according to which theme their wicked question focused on. Using an online medium, participation in the workshop began weeks prior to meeting in Cape Town where wicked questions were discussed and participants engaged with contextual readings for both countries.

The online phase of the workshop meant that participants had an understanding of the issues and concerns of both contexts that researchers and practitioners are engaging with. The workshop kicked off with a wonderful session of student engagement so that participants could listen to the concerns of South African students. Students highlighted the need to have a curriculum that would provide them with real world skills necessary for them to be successful in the work place. A most thought provoking session this was. The following three days were spent fleshing out issues of access, success and student needs. Having been placed in the access group, the main focus of our group was to understand the complexity of issues surrounding students’ access to universities and their ability to access the content taught at universities. The main conclusion reached was that universities should perhaps be open to adapting to incoming students rather than sticking to a rigid mould and asking a diverse population of incoming students to adjust and adapt to fit the mould of a university they may feel isolated in.

The follow-up to these discussions saw participants proposing possible topics that would need to be researched. Through collaboration these ideas were built upon and informal proposals developed. It is the hope that through collaboration, attendees of the workshop can begin to look into these research gaps, the goal being to facilitate student access, success and the meeting of student needs. This no doubt requires the commitment and passion of attendees well into the future. On the whole the workshop was a great learning curve for me. It is hoped that the benefits of this workshop will be seen well into the future as addressing concerns in higher education is most pertinent.

No workshop would be complete without a few evening activities to keep spirits up and give international visitors a chance to experience some of South Africa’s hospitality. The workshop was held at the Monkey Valley Holiday resort, a most lovely destination. The evenings and early mornings saw participants enjoying Long beach; a beautiful sunset was the highlight of these excursions. Local craft beer tasting was also one of the highlights. Just a short walk to Aegir Project Independent Brewery and participants were enjoying tasters of several in-house beers.

Overall, such a great experience. Much credit is due to both the Universities who hosted the workshop and the funders who brought the vision to light.

Dianne Long

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