The HELTASA 2017 Conference Reflection: Nalini Chitanand

The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) was honoured and privileged to host the HELTASA 2017 conference in the idyllic setting of Umhlanga, Durban. We thank all delegates for their participation in the conference and for their contributions to the numerous debates, discussions and conversations on Higher Education Wellbeing.

The conference venue, the Coastlands Hotel and Conference Centre, conveniently located in close proximity to the airport and other hotels in Umhlanga, was the ideal location for the conference.  The service and conference facilities provided by Coastlands Umhlanga were exemplary, warm and welcoming.

Welcome addresses by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Fawzia Peer and Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibu Moyo at the cocktail evening and by the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Thandi Gwele and the Director: CELT, Professor Thengani Ngwenya set the tone for the conference. In line with the conference theme of Transcending Boundaries delegates were entertained with an exhilarating opening event by the Surialanga Dance Company that performed two Afro-Indian fusion dance items.

With 177 presentations, the conference provided a platform for sharing of experiences among national and international participants. Presentations included 11 pre-conference workshops, followed by 119 oral papers, 36 poster presentations, 5 flipped paper and 5 critical dialogue sessions. A total of 322 delegates from 40 institutions globally attended the conference. The institutions represented ranged from 24 out of 26 South African universities as well as the Council on Higher Education and 7 private institutions in South Africa, 3 African universities, 4 UK universities and the Kathmandu University, Nepal.

The theme, Higher Education Wellbeing: Transcending Boundaries, Reframing Excellence and the various subthemes, stimulated robust debates and discussions around contemporary issues impacting on Higher Education in South Africa and globally and encouraged delegates to draw on alternative theoretical perspectives to transcend their own, disciplinary, institutional and national boundaries in our attempts to transform the Higher Education landscape.

The keynote addresses and presentations by delegates disrupted current conceptions of teaching, learning and research in Higher Education and suggested innovative, creative and transformative approaches necessary to confront some of the challenges that impact on Higher Education institutionally, nationally and internationally. The keynote address by Prof Luitel (Kathmandu University, Nepal) was an intellectually stimulating presentation that challenged dominant hegemonic discourses and focused on how educational research can be used as/for transformative professional development. He proposed a multi-paradigmatic research design that empowers researchers to develop themselves as politically, ethically and epistemologically perspicacious educational practitioners.

Prof Waghid (Stellenbosch University) presented a very powerful keynote address that focussed on the concept of a university-in-becoming and emphasized that ‘such a university ought to be one constituted and guided by deliberative, responsible, and cosmopolitan actions’. His provocative concept of pedagogic pilgrimage encouraged academics to be on this pilgrimage of unconditional love and commitment to the educational project. In addressing issues of the decolonisation of Higher Education, Prof Waghid suggested fusion of knowledge, which implies putting (South) African knowledge in conversation with the knowledges of the world.

Prof Allais (University of the Witwatersrand) raised a very convincing argument in her keynote address for the use and benefits of lectures in this era. Lectures are typically considered as traditional and outdated.  She argued that the energies created through contact as a group made the lecture experience as extremely meaningful. She challenged the mass movement towards placing everything online.

The social events are an important part of the HELTASA conferences each year. The scenic African Sky room of the Coastlands Umhlanga Hotel was abuzz with cheer and laughter as colleagues gathered, meeting old friends and networking with new colleagues during the Welcome Cocktail event. The Gala Dinner was held at the Sharks Board, which provided an ideal location for delegates to let down their hair and enjoy the evening with good food, wine, great music by the band Misty and plenty of dancing. It was also an opportunity to give recognition to and celebrate the achievement of the winners of the HELTASA/CHE National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Awards. Our heartiest congratulations to all the winners and the recipients of commendations.

There will be a selection of papers from the HELTASA 2017 conference that will published as a Special Issue of the South African Journal of Higher Education, 2018, Volume 32, Number 6. All papers must be submitted to the Guest Editors by 17th February 2018. Communications and further requirements will be sent to all delegates.

We wish you all well over the festive season and hope that you will return to work invigorated, refreshed and well rested.

With best wishes

Nalini Chitanand and Shubnam Rambharos

o.b.o. HELTASA 2017 Organising Committee

2017-12-18T13:57:26+00:00

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