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Transformation Overview


The Faculty is actively committed to transformation. 

We believe that the University’s and specifically our Faculty’s student and staff complement must more closely reflect the demographics of the population of our country. Our curriculum and research must address our collective heritage, environment and developmental needs. Our institutional culture must celebrate our rich history, diversity and talent in an affirming and inclusive manner, so as to accord the dignity and respect to black staff and students as we continue to build towards a non-racial democracy.

What does Transformation in FHS mean?

Transformation is one of three Key Strategic Streams underpinning the FHS Strategic Plan ‘Vision 2030’:

"Transformation should encompass all our activities:

  • Transformation of our faculty to reflect non-racialism and non-sexism. 
  • Combat discrimination in all spheres, including patriarchy to promote social cohesion as well as foster an enabling environment. 

  • Transform what we do in terms of teaching, research and service to be aligned with the needs of our country. 

  • Transform what we do in terms of the University’s Afropolitan vision."

    FHS Strategic Plan ‘Vision 2030’ 

There are many definitions of and approaches to Transformation.  Discussions in recent months draw attention to the contestation of terminology, and have led to suggestions that rather than non-racialism and non-sexism, anti-racism and heteronormativity be considered instead. In addition, ableism and patriarchy have been flagged as part of often covert discriminatory practices that must be challenged in order to promote social cohesion as well as foster an enabling environment.

It is in this context that we are currently re-evaluating the definition of Transformation through a faculty-wide process of conversations, the Faculty has in the past chosen to address issues of employment equity and institutional culture. We believe that changing the staff profile is impossible without changing the way in which staff and students of diverse backgrounds interact. Also, it is important to us that we create welcoming and supportive environments that enable all members of the Faculty to realise their potential. Similarly, equity targets and the transformation of our staff profile are critical in helping to change our institutional culture.

For practical purposes, the definition developed by Wits' Health Sciences Faculty is a useful one that speaks to the way in which we are developing programmes at UCT:

"... a process of negotiated organisational change that breaks decisively with the past discriminatory practices in order to create an environment where the full potential of everyone is realised and where diversity, both social and intellectual is respected and valued and where it is central to the achievement of the faculties goals."
                                                                                                                     - Wits' Health Sciences Faculty

Why the need for Transformation in the FHS?

As South Africa emerged  from decades of systematic racial discrimination, institutions in the health sector, particularly those involved in higher education, grappled with how transformation should best be effected, and what role human rights awareness should play in such transformation.

Testimonies to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Special Hearings on the Health Sector in June 1997 revealed that staff and students had experienced discrimination because of the institutional culture. The Faculty Reconciliation Process (1998 to 2005) aimed at facilitating the adoption of programmes to address the institutional culture of the Faculty. A set of research projects were commissioned to understand what happened at UCT during apartheid. The TRC hoped to identify current obstacles for black staff and students, and women that continue to create barriers to their full participation in the Faculty.

The research findings provided the basis for the Adoption of a Faculty Charter that encapsulate principles for developing a culture of human rights based on respect for human dignity and non-discrimination.

The Charter was formally adopted at a Special Faculty Assembly in May 2002. In addition, the Faculty developed and launched a Declaration to replace the traditional oath taken by health sciences' students at the completion of their studies. The new declaration, developed by a multidisciplinary Faculty committee including both staff and students, reflects values the Faculty views as core to its graduates, including principles of non-discrimination, and respect for human dignity and rights. Furthermore, in its current transformation of the undergraduate medical education curriculum, the Faculty has committed itself to incorporating human rights, ethics and the lessons derived from the painful self-examination of black students' experiences at UCT at all levels of the teaching programme. 

In order to overcome this legacy, the Health Sciences Faculty established three committees to focus on Transformation: 

1. Transformation and Equity Committee (TEC)
The portfolio operates on the basis of the following overall strategic goals: 

  • To facilitate a process of Transformation and Equity in the Faculty of Health Sciences. 
  • To place Transformation and Equity on the agenda of all Faculty Structures to ensure its uptake in all Faculty planning.

Specific areas in which the Portfolio activities are organised, include:

  • Promotion of the application of EE policies and practices.
  • Facilitating the transformation of the Institutional culture.
  • Promotion of a process of Institutional Reconciliation.
  • Communication with stakeholders (internal/external)

2. Professional Standards Committee (PSC)
The role of the PSC is both proactive and reactive. It includes promoting awareness of professional standards among staff and students, receiving allegations of unprofessional behaviour within the service learning environment, and supporting and advising those who speak out against unprofessional behaviour. Read more

3. Dean’s Transformation Advisory Committee (DTAC) was established in 2015 following the #RhodesMustFall campaign to advise the Dean on fast-tracking transformation in the Faculty. The terms of reference for the committee will be to:

  • Review the FHS Vision for 2030 Strategic Document in relation to transformation imperatives.
  • Advise the Dean on all matters relating to transformation.
  • Monitor implementation of strategies to advance transformation in the Faculty.
  • Promote conversations on transformation and intersectionalities among and across all constituencies within the Faculty.
  • Advise on the review of ad hominem processes.
  • Review and advise on the work of other transformation structures.

The Faculty sees the role of these committees and their various programmes for institutional transformation, as critical. Although also a response to legal and policy imperatives, the Faculty's Transformation Programme is firmly driven by a commitment to self-reflection that is seen as both educationally sound and as morally appropriate.