|2016 DRUSSA Benchmarking Conference|
|Thursday, 19 May 2016 14:08|
The third DRUSSA Benchmarking and Leadership Conference took place in Mauritius from 25 to 27 April – and, while this may have been the last such Conference the message that rang out from the proceedings was that this did not represent the end of the road. If anything, as one delegate put it, this was only “the end of the beginning”.
Prof Romeela Mohee, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, opened the Conference with a stirring address that set the tone well for the days ahead. Her message was clear – when universities are able to anticipate policy developments in-country, socio-economic conditions and trends, and shifting community needs, they can better ensure both curriculum relevance and the social utility of their research. This is more than a good thing – this is part of ensuring the indispensability of the university in the long run.
Looking to the future
Sustainability was a key theme of the Conference, weaving through each of the sessions and discussions. With all 22 universities having completed the 2016 Benchmarking Survey, there was plenty to inform these discussions – trends in institutional change over the past five years, instances of good practice, remaining challenges and approaches to solving them.
Using the survey information, presented by lead author, the ACU’s Emma Falk, delegates broke into regional sessions – West, East and Southern – to use the Benchmarking findings to help answer at least two key questions on sustainability:
Applying our minds
Practical lessons and exercises were a central feature of this Conference – as exemplified by the Demonstrator Research Project Posters. We were delighted that 18 universities prepared an excellent range of posters featuring research that is connecting with users and, once again, we congratulate the University of Limpopo, Ibadan, the Free State and KNUST for winning the top votes from their DRUSSA peers!
Learning from the past
On Day Two, Leaders and Champions led a series of presentations and discussions on key themes with transferable approaches to good practice. This included a panel – Dr Sekhwela from University of Botswana, Rosemary Omwandho from University of Nairobi and Vincent Lomotey from KNUST – speaking about how Research Uptake strategy has been incorporated in their universities; Felicitas Moyo from University of Zambia speaking about communications, drawing on her experience in the CREST short courses, the Science Communication training of trainers and her Mphil on Science Communication;and Prof Shaun Pather from CPUT speaking about stakeholder engagement at both institutional and project levels.
Leaders and Champions then convened into four thematic sessions to take ideas from these presentations, as well as data from the survey, to draw up key messages for their Vice Chancellors’ Briefing Documents. University pairs then continued to develop these briefings, and four duos presented from four thematic perspectives about how VCs might best be supported to take a strong leadership position for Research Uptake going forward.
Outputs from these sessions all came together to inform the “Conference Consensus” document – a summation of core good practice statements, common institutional objectives for the future and practical tools and takeaways to help reach those objectives. The Conference Consensus document is currently with all delegates for final edits, ideas and suggestions, and the DRUSSA programme team will soon be synthesising these ideas into a final draft to be circulated alongside the final DRUSSA Benchmarking Report in June.
As in previous years, the final Benchmarking Report will be comprised of the Survey Report that was tabled at the Conference, supplemented with summaries and conclusions drawn from the Conference itself. The Conference Consensus document will be distinct from this – the Consensus is intended to help consolidate agreed actions for future work, and ways that the existing network of DRUSSA universities can carry forward their institutional initiatives (and their common expertise) once DRUSSA, as a supporting mechanism, formally winds down.
The Benchmarking Conference elucidated something very important – that, not only are partner universities achieving significant gains in the consolidation of their Research Uptake systems, but that partner universities, together, constitute the pre-eminent African network of expertise in Research Uptake Management practice.
Liam Roberts is the DRUSSA Programme Officer at the ACU