The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe addressed the FABI Monday Morning Meeting on 30 November on higher education reimagined in the post COVID-19 world. In an article published on The Conversation’s website Prof. Kupe urges higher education institutions to rethink what their future would look like, and take steps towards this. “If they are to survive and thrive, universities must adapt their strategies,” he argues.

COVID-19 has many negative implications for higher education. These include the disruption of programmes and research, financial challenges, and the health and well-being of staff and students. Graduates also face a constrained labour market due to the poorly performing economy. The migration by universities to emergency remote learning has sharpened the socio-economic fault lines in higher education and society. This is mainly due to varying institutional resources and students’ socio-economic circumstances.

Notwithstanding the challenges, the pandemic has highlighted the need for a hybrid or blended education. The idea is to optimise multiple delivery modes and embrace creativity and innovation in teaching and learning. COVID-19 is thus an opportunity to develop and embrace online education.

Universities also have enormous research and development resources to contribute to the transformation of society. Research institutes like FABI, together with the broader University, need to link its expertise and knowledge generating resources to societal structures to help reimagine society and reposition ourselves for a better future. FABI has developed effective models to do such impactful transdisciplinary work over the past 22 years, and must support the University to expand this model.

This is Professor Kupe’s third visit to FABI since his appointment at UP, and much appreciated by the community. The meeting was conducted in a hybrid style, as has become the norm in the last part of the year, with about 40 people attending in person, and 140 online.