Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Moving back to South Africa

I take up a position as associate professor of Computer Science at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa on 1 April; I’m putting this article up in advance because stories with a 1 April dateline have a certain connotation.

This one’s for real.

After several years at the School of IT and Electrical Engineering at the University of Queensland, St Lucia and slightly fewer years at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the same campus, why am I heading back to South Africa?

Several reasons.
  • a place I can contribute more – while it’s great being in a large well funded institution for many reasons, it’s a lot harder to feel you are making a difference. And Australia’s economy isn’t going to grow a whole lot on the back of what I can do; South Africa on the other hand has many opportunities that I and my graduates can open up with the right skills
  • small institution bureaucracy – or lack thereof: a university with 6,000 students has to be a lot less unwieldy to navigate on a day to day basis
  • a place where Computer Science has respect – in more than one university where I’ve done time, I’ve been left with a feeling that computer science is seen as a second-class subject, without the venerable history of physics. The fact that it has led the fastest advance of any era of human technological history apparently doesn’t mean much. Rhodes computer science is a relatively big department in a small university, and its professors have been deans and deputy vice-chancellors.
And finally:
  • going home – Rhodes is in a part of the country that I haven’t lived in but despite the many attractions of the land of Oz, it isn’t really home
I will still be in Australia for a while because I need to take care of a few details like selling a house. I will miss the possums that sleep on my top balcony, the great open spaces, the Great Barrier Reef, walks in the mountains and the appealingly weird wildlife. I won’t miss the dishonest media and the short-term self-serving politics. Not that South Africa is that brilliant on the latter score.

A Greens Party in South Africa, perhaps as a side project?


Anonymous said...

So did you move back in the end?

Philip Machanick said...

Yes. See what I'm up to at the university and promoting a green agenda.