By Professor J. Manrakhan
The opening ceremony of the University of Mauritius Research Week by Dr the Honourable R. Jeetah, Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology took place at the Paul Octave Wiehe Auditorium, Réduit on the 5th September 2011. For a detailed programme consult http://campus.uom.ac.mu/research wk 2011. Over the past four decades or thereabouts, there has been in sustained existence, a thin stream of research excellence at the Réduit campus, spanning all faculties, despite many a difficulty or shortcoming, as the University of Mauritius strove towards, and then beyond, its critical mass of research “capital”. More recently, those research endeavours came to be highlighted through the device of a research week along specific themes: “Research and Innovation Challenges” (2007); “Sustainable Development and Innovation” (2008); “Sustainable Green, Intelligent and Innovative Island” (2009-2010).
As Dr A Carpoonen, specialist in Kreol Studies, pointed out in his welcoming address, the format for 2011 has been altered towards providing more flexibility so that each faculty has come to enjoy a whole day on its own.
Pr K. Morgan, the Vice Chancellor made a solemn appeal for all those involved in research work to enjoy the latter. And so that everyone can really enjoy at least the week in question, he also announced a Rs1Million grant for each Faculty to fund research projects after a peer-review process.
Pr S. Jugessur, Pro Chancellor and Chairman of the University Council, while expressing satisfaction at the evolution of the research endeavours at the Réduit campus, also sounded a note or two of concern – notably, about the necessity to ensure proper application of research results as well as the necessity to cover more research areas, such as Forestry.
In his Opening Address, the Minister commented, and commended, the various steps in the onward march of the University of Mauritius towards a confident future in research and other activities, highlighting a few of those papers which had caught his attention in the light of his own experience on campus and elsewhere.
Among the positives around Research Week 2011, the following should be mentioned.
- The stream of research excellence has now broadened and deepened enough to warrant real confidence for the future.
- There are now areas which span interest throughout the campus: climate change, unauthorised modelling, food and health – research may soon transcend Faculty boundaries.
- Whatever else may be happening at the Réduit Campus or elsewhere, “achieving gender equality at work” – the last research paper (Faculty of Law and Management) appears to have been actually attained in the papers and the moderation of Research Week 2011.
Towards an “International Research University”, may be?
For students of the University Institution, that expression itself may be full of contractions, nonetheless it may be pedantic to quarrel about that. The outstanding example of such a University would be that known by its world famous acronym MIT, much admired, often emulated but, as yet unequalled (except, perhaps, in the USA itself?)
Mauritius is very far from there.
The National University of Singapore (NUS), around 25 years ago, was quite content to admit that its research efforts (as distinct from its teaching) were not the major influence explaining the socio-economic development of that country. And the investment in the NUS has been far, far greater than in the Réduit Campus.
Moreover in the mid 1990s, when the Réduit Campus became equipped with its “New Academic Complex” which vastly increased its physical accommodation and even more important, enabled a massive increase in flexibility of its academic activities, the University of Reunion had more than 4 times the physical capacity of the Réduit Campus.
As Christina Rosetti has reminded us, the road ahead is uphill, all the way. Never mind, another great lady, Indira Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister, averred at the Paul Octave Wiehe Auditorium on the occasion of her Honorary Doctorate, that scholarship is one area where the small can compete with the large. So why not? The future would be tough but “do-able”.
Time to streamline, cultivate and fructify further one of Réduit’s greatest assets, which never appear in the balance sheet, namely its links to other Universities, research and otherwise.
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Relating to Innovations – A Postscript
May I suggest a postscript to the above-mentioned (Mauritius Times, 1 Sep 11, p3), inspired by an article in The Economist entitled ‘Think Different’ (6 Aug 11, p 53). There innovation is perceived as ‘today’s equivalent of the Holy Grail’. Reference is also made to Harvard’s Clay Christensen and his ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ (1997) which highlighted the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’.
A new study of his, co-authored with Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen, and scheduled for publication soon, is aptly entitled ‘The Innovator’s DNA’. The Economist’s article concludes that the latter is not only ‘rare’, but also ‘impossible to clone’.
How very true – at least for the present.
* Published in print edition on 9 September 2011