The University of Cape Town (UCT) has taken the rare decision to chastise one of its own professors for publishing a contentious paper about black South Africans, and the subjects they choose to study. The concluded research has been labelled as ‘offensive and unethical’.

Controversial UCT paper – what did Professor Natrass write?

The research paper by UCT Professor Nicoli Natrass – titled “Why are black South African students less likely to consider studying biological sciences?” – ruffled many feathers when it recently went public. Although UCT stress that they welcome ‘rigorous and respectful debate’, they’ve turned their backs on this particular academic.

UCT, arguably caught between a rock and a hard place, didn’t flinch in their decision to dismiss the findings. They have also opened up an investigation into Natrass’ conduct, as they weigh up the rights to academic freedom against the institutions own culture and value system.

University distancing themselves from contentious research

Issuing a statement on Friday, the university said that the publication is a ‘flawed study’ which fails to consider the ‘historical roots’ of what it is trying to explain. They have fully distanced themselves from the paper.

“The UCT executive is concerned that the paper has methodological, conceptual flaws that raise questions about the standard and ethics of research at UCT. The paper is constructed on unexamined assumptions about what black people think, feel, aspire to, and are capable of. The paper is offensive and [unethical].”

“The commentary by Professor Natrass offers an example of research that’s unable to examine the historical and ideological roots of academic disciplines. It is equally unaware of the role that power differentials have in closing or opening possibilities and choices in the life of individuals and communities.”

  • You can read the full statement from UCT here:

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Presh JM Reporter

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