Accelerated transformation-oriented initiative to renew UJ’s academic leadership

The need to transform and to renew the cohort of senior academics, has led to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) establishing its Accelerated Academic Mentorship Programme (AAMP), an initiative seeking to effect institutional change in terms of race and gender within the academic staff profile.

Says Prof Rory Ryan, Executive Director: Academic Development and Support, UJ: “There are various imperatives driving AAMP, since it was launched in 2015. A number of senior academics will be retiring in the next few years, and AAMP is a crucial proactive initiative to ensure continuity in terms of crucial research and academic leadership skills. AAMP serves to prepare and nurture a portion of the future cohort of professional academic staff.”

Selected candidates receives a dedicated senior academic mentor, and are invited to participate in a range of career development programmes, including workshops on teaching innovation, teaching with technology, research methods, preparing research for publication, preparing an application for promotion, and writing retreats. AAMP candidates may also apply for funds for overseas visits, especially to UJ’s prestigious Universitas 21 partner universities, and for teaching relief, so as to focus on specific academic outputs, elaborates Prof Ryan.

There are three Levels in the programme. Level 1 consists of 102 candidates who are preparing their doctoral theses. Level 2 consists of 102 candidates who have completed a doctoral degree and are preparing for applications to Associate Professor, and in Level 3 are 28 Associate Professors preparing to apply to become Professor. .As candidates achieve their objectives, they are accommodated in the next Level.

The mentoring programme is part of the broader strategy of the University to transform its academic profile. Historical inequities, at the highest levels of academia, in terms of gender and race must be addressed immediately, and the AAMP contributes to this UJ strategy.

An important aspect of AAMP is identifying a career path with distinct milestones, says Prof Ryan. To this end, the AAMP participants are supported to achieve their set objectives, and they receive dedicated mentoring from top academics, many of whom have a research rating from the National Research Foundation.

Prof Ryan concludes: “This is a focused intervention with selected staff, and does not replace UJ’s ongoing commitment to mentor and develop all academic staff. The programme is about molding future role models that will ignite students’ ambition to pursue excellence.”

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