Dr Saleem Badat is passionate about Rhodes University and is proud of the constructive role it plays in our city and in our country. As Vice Chancellor of South Africa’s smallest university with only 7 500 students, he is acutely aware of its position on a national level where he believes Rhodes punches far above its weight.
Dr Saleem Badat is passionate about Rhodes University and is proud of the constructive role it plays in our city and in our country. As Vice Chancellor of South Africa’s smallest university with only 7 500 students, he is acutely aware of its position on a national level where he believes Rhodes punches far above its weight. As he said in an interview with italGrocott’s Mail/ital: “A university that only has 0.8% of South Africa’s university students wins almost 15% of Mandela Rhodes scholarships!” He is equally as sensitive to the enormous impact of the university on Grahamstown where it is the largest employer and the economic engine of this historical town. For this reason, during the interview he regularly emphasised the importance of Rhodes University’s community engagement programmes. Badat said that in the next few days, during Orientation Week, or O-week, close to 1 500 new students arrive, after being selected from the 5 000 to 6 000 applicants. This low percentage of only 25% successful applicants is in line with the national trend where universities find themselves obliged to turn away a high proportion of applications. He said that this doesn't mean there will be a situation similar to the one at the University of Johannesburg where a woman lost her life while trying to help her son gain admission into the university. He said that administrative measures are routinely put in place to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated at Rhodes University. He noted, however that South Africans have an unrealistic notion of the role of universities in society and who should actually study at a university. “We’ve been suffering for years with the idea that every student who does well in matric must go to university – this is not the case”. He agreed with the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, who recently released a green paper arguing for greater emphasis to be placed on technikons, training colleges and other tertiary institutions besides the mainstream universities. Badat is critical of the education system that gives high school pupils and their parents unrealistic expectations by telling them “that with three 40 percents and three 30 percents – you can go to university.” He is also concerned about the general quality of preparation at schools because he argued that if you admit students who have not been properly prepared at school level, “then they will drown once they get to university”. He said, “that student is unlikely to survive at Rhodes University and it would be immoral to insist that Rhodes must take that student and think that Rhodes can succeed with a student that has been so poorly prepared”. Badat said that although the university has plans to strengthen its postgraduate research and study, it will continue “to strive for the best, and highest quality of undergraduate education – just as we have done over the years as reflected in our pass rates and graduation rates”. He insists that the university will live up to its commitment to parents to take teaching very seriously and to undertake research which does not compromise undergraduates' learning and teaching. While Badat emphasised the importance of academic achievement at Rhodes University, he was also passionate about the value of producing leaders who are ethical, caring, compassionate and decent human beings. (((Rhodes University factbox))) # 27% of Rhodes students are postgraduates. Our postgraduates are outstanding students, which means undergraduates enjoy excellent tutors and also role models who can inspire them to continue with postgraduate study, said Badat. # Almost half of Rhodes students live in one of 49 comfortable residences. # And eat at one of 11 dining halls. # Plans are on the table for a brand new R150 million life sciences building. # Rhodes University has a leading role in South Africa’s proposal for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope in the Northern Cape. # Rhodes has among the lowest academic staff to student ratio in the country – an average of 1 academic per 17 students, and in the natural sciences as low as 1 academic to 9 students. # Rhodes University has produced more Rhodes scholars to Oxford than any other South African university, and continues, proportionally, to do so. Currently, there are three Rhodes University scholars at Oxford on Rhodes Scholarships, and a number of our graduates are also overseas on other prestigious scholarships. (((Quotes:))) Dr. Saleem Badat quote – addressing parents in Johannesburg in November 2011: “We are in small town Grahamstown, where our excitement is four seasons in a single day, the joy of clean fresh air, and where the excuse of being held up in the traffic would be the most lame and unimaginative excuse for being late for classes or work”. Most regrettably, a university education is also expensive. However, as our renowned professor of taxation, Matthew Lester will say, it is still by far the best investment that you can make – especially if you choose the right university.