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Prof Liezel Frick

Inaugural lecture:

April 20, 2023 @ 17:3018:30

Not just another brick in the wall: The role of doctoral creativity in educating future generations of researchers

Internationally and across disciplines, originality is an expected outcome of doctoral education. Yet how this outcome is produced has not received much scholarly consideration. Liezel Frick’s work has contributed substantively to the body of knowledge on doctoral education in general, and more specifically around the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the interplay between doctoral originality as product and doctoral creativity as the underlying process thereof.

The inaugural lecture offers a brief conceptualisation of doctoral creativity, after which Liezel poses four future-focused, provocative questions on doctoral creativity, namely:
· Does doctoral creativity offer a ‘global passport’ into the world?
· Can doctoral creativity act as a catalyst for research collaboration?
· Can doctoral creativity be commodified?
· Can doctoral creativity save the world?

The perspectives she offers in considering these questions are drawn from her own scholarly trajectory and interests as well as a wide-ranging body of scholarship.

Does doctoral creativity offer a ‘global passport’ into the world? Having (and obtaining) a doctorate implies having to traverse boundaries. Such boundaries may be institutional, national and/or disciplinary. Ideally, ideas (as the building blocks of knowledge advancement) are not bound by such boundaries. However, in reality, not all ideas are created equal, as knowledge creation (including doctoral knowledge creation) continues to operate in bound ways. So, while the doctorate may be a passport to a world of opportunity for some, others may need additional visas to access global knowledge communities – leading to differentiated doctoral futures. When we consider doctoral education, we need to think about ways in which to disrupt epistemic, socioeconomic and political hierarchies and privilege.

Can doctoral creativity act as a catalyst for research collaboration? We are already seeing shifts towards collaborative doctoral creativity, but we may need more research that explores how universities could nurture the creative potential of both individuals and groups. This requires time, resources and space for more flexible programme structures, improved student support structures, and an investment in developing creative higher education pedagogies as well as research that may not have an immediate and applied impact.

Can doctoral creativity be commodified? Universities that promote creativity in doctorates need to be creative as institutions. The idea of being a creative university does not exclude being efficient or economically viable, but requires a longer-term view of the benefit it might add to society and the economy, and allows more space for dialogue, experimentation and innovation. A narrow focus on the economy of the system (both in terms of fiscal and efficiency indicators) may inadvertently infringe on the potential for innovative knowledge transfer, creation and production through both teaching and research, and the eventual contribution the higher education sector could potentially make to industry and society in the future.

Can doctoral creativity save the world? Doctoral creativity towards this end requires the development of students’ awareness and control in implementing their knowledge creatively in an unpredictable professional setting. This argument speaks to higher-order and complex competencies and should not be disregarded or diluted to a simplistic notion of skills development. It highlights the need for a more considered exploration of creativity as a central feature of doctoral curricula.


Short biography

Liezel Frick is a professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University, where she has been the director of the Centre for Higher and Adult Education since 2017. She obtained her doctorate in 2007 and joined the Department as a lecturer in 2008. She currently also serves the Faculty as Vice-Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies. She teaches and supervises in the Faculty’s postgraduate diploma, MPhil and doctoral programmes focused on higher and adult education. In addition, she is a research fellow of the DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (SciSTIP).

Although her research interests fall within the broader higher and adult education field, it is particularly her work on doctoral education that has gained international recognition. She is an active member of the International Doctoral Education Research Network (IDERN) and the special interest group on researcher education and careers of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), which has enabled her to build extensive research networks around doctoral education and supervision. Further testimony to the reach of her work in this field includes her time on the advisory board on doctoral supervision at the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden, 2017/18) and as an invited member of the expert group on doctoral education for the Herrenhausen Conference on Forces and Forms of Doctoral Education (sponsored by the Volkswagen Stiftung, Hanover, Germany, September 2019). She uses her research as the basis for supervisor and early-career researcher capacity development and has been invited to facilitate workshops and short courses, leaving an academic footprint in various African and European countries.

Her work has earned her multiple awards, most notably the Best African Accomplished Educational Researcher award for 2013/14 (by the African Development Institute (ADI) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) – Abidjan, Côte d’ Ivoire, 2015) and the Emerald Literati Network 2012 Highly Commended award (for the article “Conceptualising and encouraging critical creativity in doctoral education” published in the International Journal for Researcher Development together with Prof Eva Brodin from Lund University, Sweden). The National Research Foundation awarded her a Y2 rating (promising young researcher) in 2013 and a C1 rating (established recognised researcher) in 2019. Her research portfolio includes more than 70 published research outputs and even more conference presentations, on a number of occasions as keynote speaker. She has served in a reviewing/editorial capacity for more than 20 different academic journals.



April 20, 2023

Organizer (event)

Amira Brown


STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre
10 Marais Road
Stellenbosch, 7600 South Africa
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