Nelson Mandela University launches dedicated ocean sciences centre of excellence
With five of its seven campuses located a few hundred metres from the sea and within 25km of two major ports, Nelson Mandela University’s involvement in the blue economy is inescapable.
In 2014, the South African government launched the bold Operation Phakisa growth strategy, under the guidance of the National Development Plan, to harness the largely untapped potential of the blue or oceans economy.
The blue economy was identified as the next major injector to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), with the potential to create up to a million jobs and contribute R177-billion to the economy by 2033. These ambitious targets, however, cannot be met without increasing and improving the skills pool available to the marine and maritime industry.
As one of only six comprehensive universities in South Africa, Nelson Mandela University has the capacity to provide a broad menu of programmes in a wide range of fields from certificate to doctoral level.
Mandela University is recognised for its leadership in generating cutting-edge knowledge and innovation that will make a positive contribution to realising the economic potential of our oceans whilst protecting South Africa’s rich marine biodiversity.
This, through the long-awaited new Ocean Sciences Campus, situated at the old CSIR building in Port Elizabeth, which will officially launch on 22 September.
The campus is essentially a dedicated ocean sciences centre of excellence that will foster transdisciplinary research and innovation, with a postgraduate focus, necessary to address the ecological, economic and social sustainability challenges of the oceans.
The new campus, like the recently launched Nelson Mandela University name, is part of the trajectory that has its roots in the institution’s 2020 vision and strategy, birthed in 2010. The vision and strategy whose formulation and execution, led from the outset by now outgoing Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz, aims to reposition the University in South Africa, Africa and the world.
Prof Swartz has been the driving force behind the University’s bold new Ocean Sciences Strategy, which arises from his passionate belief that Mandela University enjoys a number of competitive advantages enabling it to become the leading Ocean Sciences university on the African continent.
These include its geographical location on the Eastern seaboard, in a major port City (Port Elizabeth) with two major harbours, over forty years of ocean sciences expertise, the establishment of a dedicated new Ocean Sciences Campus, and roll-out of an exciting new generation of ocean sciences academic programmes.
The campus is part of a broader repositioning that is anchored in reimagining the academic project, which entails, among others, and as articulated by Prof Swartz, the following:
• reinvigorating curriculum renewal to equip graduates to contribute to issues of social justice, democracy, equality, sustainability, ecological justice, globalisation, technological change and the changing nature of work;
• establishing faculty transformation committees, involving students and staff facilitating co-creation of curricula, teaching and learning methods, and innovative research and engagement practices; and
• orientation workshops for all academics to embrace the new knowledge and curriculum paradigm.
“To this end, the University has adopted a bold new Ocean Sciences strategy to drive a new research, training and innovation agenda to help find better tools for managing the twin challenges of human development and ecological sustainability,” says Prof Swartz.
“In this context, we have begun to expand academic offerings in fields such as oceanography, marine engineering, maritime economics and logistics, marine tourism, port development and management, marine spatial planning and the law of the sea, including fisheries law enforcement.
“In the next few years, we hope to recruit a new generation of smart students, academic staff and researchers to get top-class training in critical fields.”
The University has extensive linkages with both industry and the public sector and is the proud host of the headquarters of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), which has been established through funding support from national government to coordinate the development and implementation of a national maritime skills development plan.
Mandela University looks forward to taking critical steps in a collective effort to help the country and continent take its rightful place in the blue economy through its new Ocean Science Campus.