Forging an Extended Degree Program in the Sciences at the University of Cape Town

Presentation by:  Dr. David Gammon (Deputy Dean, Faculty of Sciences at the University of Cape Town)

When: Thursday, May 28, 10:30-12 Noon.

Where: Richardson Hall Room 340

Title: Forging an Extended Degree Programme in the Sciences at the University of Cape Town: Staff and Students in the Crucible

RSVP : Email  or call Caroline Teske  613-533-6000 x49584

Summary of Presentation:

An account will be given of a re-imagined approach to an Extended Degree Programme in Science at UCT. The University and the Science Faculty continues to be confronted with the harsh reality of South African schooling system which fails to prepare students adequately for studies in the sciences and mathematics, with the toll particularly felt by the poorest and the historically disadvantaged.

On evaluating a programme begun in the late 1990’s, based on pre-selecting students and exposing them initially to a two-year foundation programme, it was realized that student success was not always easy to predict, and success rates were modest and not increasing. An alternative approach emerged from a Faculty think-tank, and was based on five key principles:

(a) initial admission of all students to the same programme, rather than pre-selection of some for the extended degree programme (EDP),

(b) enhancement of interventions dealing with the transition to university life and studies,

(c) early assessment, after four weeks, leading to recommendations to join the EDP,

(d) one-on-one counselling of students, with the emphasis on students making the final choice to transfer to the EDP, and

(e) creation of a learning community, and provision of further psycho-social and academic help to students.

With the programme now in its third year, it is possible to reflect on some fulfilled predictions and some surprises, and the extent to which the experiences of both staff and students have had to be managed.

Brief biography:
David Gammon currently holds joint appointments as Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Science at UCT. He has research interests in the organic and biological chemistry of carbohydrates, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Teacher’s Award of the University of Cape Town. Having been a Student Academic Advisor and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Science for about 15 years, he was in 2013 appointed Assistant Dean with special responsibility for leading and managing the Extended Degree Programme. He has also served on many Faculty and University committees concerned with teaching and learning, as well as student admissions and funding.