Research and Innovation
The Research and Innovation culture of a university should be dynamic, externally focused and responsive. Capacity should be developed to deal with global challenges and it must be ensured that research and innovation has wide range impacts. In this line, UoM’s research and innovation strategy should be able to provide a framework on which it can build its core strengths and most importantly to expand its research and innovation footprint. Research, innovation and creative work outputs are the gauging elements of the academic reputation of a university and directly related to its ranking. These have generally been below the average level at UoM except for the efforts of very few groups that have emerged to international standards. An analysis of the Quality Assurance Office (Second Cycle Audit of UoM, 2012) indicates that the ratio of publications to staff/year for the period 2006-2011 were 0.74, 0.37, 0.26, 0.56 and 1.75 for the Faculties of Agriculture, Engineering, Law and Management, Social Sciences and Humanities and Science respectively; these not matching the 2 publications/year in SCI listed Journal expected from each full time academic as per the Cross-National Performance Indicators 2011. The Herana project report in 2016 confirmed this status by highlighting relatively low ratios of research publications (Web of Science-Scopus)/permanent academics and doctoral graduates/permanent academics. These were respectively 0.25 and 0.07 for the period 2012-2015 and were well below the Herana target of 1 and 0.15.
It is therefore a top priority that the University revisits its research vision and invests in an efficient and cohesive research policy framework that will foster interdisciplinary research and innovation leading to increases in the volume, quality and impact of publications, greater diversity of income streams, provide scope for knowledge transfer through both fundamental and applied programmes and enhance postgraduate experience. At the outset it must be ensured that all early career researchers are integrated into the research and innovation culture of departments and faculties. Also the university should be able to provide an adequate infrastructure that would improve both capacity and capability of its researchers to seek competitive and innovation grants. The setting up of a Business Development Centre not only to assist materializing research funding opportunities and financial support from International Agencies/Research Consortia but also to provide grantmanship skills and set up training programs for researchers to address the complexities of grant applications is mandatory. The National Innovation Fund, with a budget of Rs 150 M, remains to date still partially exploited at National level and UoM should launch immediate bidding initiatives for Research and Innovation endeavours. Despite its inherent limitations, UoM should continue the development of emerging areas of disciplinary research and innovation excellence across the full breadth of its academic profile. The success achieved by Centres of Excellence like the Centre for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research headed by National Research Chairs should inspire UoM to adopt similar concepts with Research Chairs/National Research Fellows spearheading multidisciplinary research in emerging fields thus providing the impetus for infrastructure and human resource capacity building and concurrently nurturing early career and postgraduate researchers to become the next generation research and innovation leaders. The lack of adequate assessable benchmarks contributing to the apparent inertia of many researchers should prompt UoM to propose the introduction and enforcement of an acceptable Key Performance Indicator system to ensure reasonable research performance through transparency with the consequences at mid and long term for teaching, research and innovation.
This initiative will have to be linked to a long overdue comprehensive restructuring leading to more autonomy and independence of the various departments, faculties and fully supporting the setting up of outcome-based research groups, consequent of academic motivated initiatives. The development of incubators and start-ups could potentially be the supplementary key components instrumental to facilitate transfer of research outputs to end users and be the link with the local industries, the private sector and appropriate stakeholders. It will be imperative to build synergies between the research and innovative strengths and expand UoM’s profile in collaborative and contract research, consultancy and income-generating use of facilities and creating the conditions for maximum research impact. Aggressive marketing of our research and innovation expertise will be mandatory. Furthermore, there is the necessity for bold initiatives to build, develop and sustain Government-University-Private Sector partnerships. Undoubtedly, this would require from the university a much higher visibility and adeptness of its teaching and research programmes outputs to catch the attention of various stakeholders. In return, this will provide an environment conducive to the industrial and commercial sectors to afford in-service training to students, complementary research endeavours and increase their employability.
Enhancing Student Experience
Another major challenge is to foster an improved student experience with an enhanced commitment to student engagement at UoM. Students are currently represented on major internal decision bodies but it should be ensured that the student voice is valued and most importantly UoM should be able to respond reasonably to their needs. UoM should make extensive use of student surveys and its record of responsiveness in handling survey data to meet their aspirations and expectations. Priority investments to upgrade lecture theatres, classes, laboratories and fully restyle the University library currently deemed outdated should be maintained. The Registrar’s office should be restructured to become a “one-stop-shop” providing adequate services to students and most importantly make provision for an International Student Office to assist UoM in its internationalization process. The setting up of a new Academic Advising Unit to be developed in partnership with the student body should be envisaged. This will engage a wider cross-section of the academic staff in the advising process and will more effectively address the needs of our student community. The doctoral school which has recently been set up should rapidly move to a cruising rhythm thus provide relief and efficiency to a stifled administrative structure whereby doctoral students (prospective or ongoing) were aggrieved.
The advancement of the University of Mauritius can only be materialized through the unified vision and selfless actions of the Vice Chancellor and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors. However, no action can efficiently succeed without a continuous communication strategy to be strongly purported from top management to all subsequent levels. Alongside, it is of importance to sustain a proper team spirit and trust among employees but most critical is to link staff to any strategic development plan.
Research and Innovation