Transformation-oriented initiatives seeking to effect institutional change within South African higher education institutions, and to mitigate the risks of an ageing cohort of senior academics has led to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) embarking on bold initiatives, one of which is the Accelerated Academic Mentorship Programme (AAMP).
Says Prof Rory Ryan, Executive Director: Academic Development and Support, UJ: “There are various imperatives driving AAMP. A number of senior academics will be retiring in the next few years, and AAMP is a crucial proactive initiative to minimize the loss of crucial research and academic leadership skills. AAMP serves to prepare and nurture a portion of the future cohort of professional academic staff.”
Each candidate receives a dedicated senior academic mentor, and is 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 our prestigious Universitas 21 partner universities, and for teaching relief, so as to focus on specific academic outputs.
There are three Levels in the programme. Level 1 consists of 102 candidates who are preparing their doctoral theses. Level 2 consists of 97 candidates who 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 overall group is 60% Black, and 60% female, to provide redress in terms of race and gender. Each group has a dedicated co-ordinator, and funds are provided for approved projects.
Prof Ryan stressed that 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.”