Original Research

A reflection on the role, potential and challenges of transdisciplinarity at the University of Fort Hare

Chene E. Ward, Nomzamo Dube, Siphamandla Nyambo, Christopher T. Chawatama
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 15, No 1 | a648 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v15i1.648 | © 2019 Chene E. Ward, Nomzamo Dube, Siphamandla Nyambo, Christopher T. Chawatama | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 December 2018 | Published: 12 December 2019

About the author(s)

Chene E. Ward, Centre of Transdisciplinary Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Nomzamo Dube, Centre of Transdisciplinary Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Siphamandla Nyambo, Centre of Transdisciplinary Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Christopher T. Chawatama, Centre of Transdisciplinary Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa

Abstract

The world is currently grappling with a myriad of challenges such as unemployment, poverty, inequality, violent crimes and HIV and AIDS. These challenges exist on multiple levels and are viewed from different perspectives by scholars coming from diverse disciplines, hence they demand to be tackled using a transdisciplinary approach. As part of the University of Fort Hare’s radical reconstruction of its intellectual project, the Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies (CTS) was established to facilitate and promote a wider intellectual engagement and research amongst academics and students across different disciplines. This research thus seeks to reconceptualise CTS’ objectives through exploring the academics’ understanding of transdisciplinarity, its role, transformative potential and challenges at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa. The research was conducted through qualitative semi-structured interviews with the university’s academic staff members representing faculties of health, law, social sciences and humanities, management and commerce, science and agriculture, education and the Teaching and Learning Centre. Data were analysed by thematic data analysis. The findings of the study concluded that there was no consensus amongst academics on the definition of transdisciplinarity. Academics defined it as either the merging or collaboration of disciplines. Some used the term interchangeably with interdisciplinarity and multi-disciplinarity. The findings positioned the role of CTS as that of raising transdisciplinary awareness and coordinating transdisciplinary activities across different disciplines in the university. The potential of transdisciplinarity includes collaborative research, teaching and learning and dialogue across the university. Challenges of transdisciplinarity proved to be first understanding the concept itself, foundations of mono-disciplinarity which promote departmental isolations, disciplinary comfort zones, heterogeneity of the university and academics’ busy schedules. In spite of the challenges of transdisciplinarity, participants indicated a willingness to engage in transdisciplinary activities.

Keywords

transdisciplinarity; interdisciplinarity; multi-disciplinary; collaborative research; disciplines; universities.

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Crossref Citations

1. Enabling transdisciplinary research collaboration for planetary health: Insights from practice at the environment‐health‐development nexus
Jane Wardani, Joannette J. (Annette) Bos, Diego Ramirez‐Lovering, Anthony G. Capon
Sustainable Development  vol: 30  issue: 2  first page: 375  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1002/sd.2280