Travelling from around South Africa, some 24 doctoral students gathered in Stellenbosch on Sunday, 24 June, to begin – to a warm welcome and braai, albeit on a chilly day – the month-long capacity development component of the Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC) programme.
The component runs from 25 June to 21 July 2018, and is one of the pillars of SASAC. Co-hosted by consortium members, Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the capacity development training underpins the scholarship programme, established in 2015 by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in collaboration with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to build expertise among outstanding doctoral students in the application of systems analysis across academic disciplines.
In addition to receiving a three-year scholarship, students – at this critical early stage of their PhD studies – are offered series of capacity development initiatives to prepare them for their research. So, in 2016 and 2017, the SASAC cohort 1 and 2 students had attended their respective capacity development programmes.
This year, it’s the turn of the 24 students that make up cohort 3.
Welcoming the students at the Stellenbosch braai, SASAC director, Professor Priscilla Baker of UWC, urged students to make the most of their time in the university town. “Embrace the challenge of thinking out of the box,” she told them. “Explore the bigger picture of your specific research focus area and make it count for all!”
Over the first week of the programme, the students will attend sessions on grant writing, preparing for the PhD studies, and the writing of funding motivations and opinion pieces. In the second and third weeks, they will register for courses of their choice offered as part of the Winter School of SU’s African Doctoral Academy. (Students from cohorts 1 and 2 can also register for courses, should they wish.) Over the final week, cohort 3 will attend presentations on systems analysis, and participate in a three-day writing workshop.
Also over that final week, cohort 2 will attend a policy-to-practice workshop at UWC. In turn, the cohort 3 students (now entering the final stretch of their studies) will participate in a special writing boot camp.