Prof Marwala appointed as Rector of the United Nations University

The Chair of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Council, Mr Mike Teke, has congratulated Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, on his appointment as the Rector of the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo, Japan.

The UNU announced today, 25 July 2022, that it had appointed Prof Marwala as its Rector with effect from 1 March 2023. The decision follows consultations with the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Ms Audrey Azoulay, and with her concurrence, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Says Mr. Mike Teke: “I would like to inform you that we have agreed that he will stay on at UJ for the next eight months to ensure that there is a smooth transition as we undertake the processes to identify his successor. UJ will continue to function as normal under the leadership of Prof Marwala until this process is completed.”

“As an international University of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future, we have robust systems in place to ensure that there is business continuity and that our strategies to attain the highest level of performance remain our focus.”

Congratulating Prof Marwala on his appointment, Mr Teke says: “On behalf of UJ, we are proud of Prof Marwala for taking the reins of leadership as the first African to assume the role. A University is predicated on the various components that come together to make it work and we have the right systems and staff in place to ensure that this is seamless transition. We congratulate Prof Marwala on this outstanding achievement, and we are proud that one of our own has attained such an honour.”

The UNU is a global think tank with 13 institutes in 12 countries. Through collaborative research and education, UNU supports efforts to resolve the pressing global challenges of human development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States. UNU works in close partnership with other United Nations System organizations and leading research institutions to ensure that evidence-based research informs policymaking and generates solutions that improve the lives of people everywhere.

Prof Marwala will be the seventh Rector of the UNU, succeeding Prof David M. Malone of Canada who has been in the role since 2013. The Rector is the chief academic and administrative officer of the UNU and has overall responsibility for the direction, organization, administration, and programmes of the University. The position carries the rank of United Nations Under-Secretary-General and requires extensive overseas travel. The initial appointment will be for a five-year term, with the possibility of a second term.

In announcing Prof Marwala’s appointment, UNU said the decision was taken after an extensive international search process. Ms Azoulay noted that Prof Marwala is an accomplished scholar and thought leader with multi-disciplinary research interests that include the theory and application of artificial intelligence to engineering, computer science, finance, social science and medicine.

“He [Prof Marwala] has an extensive track record in human capacity development and is committed to leveraging technology and global connectedness towards the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ms Azoulay.

Says Mr Teke: “UJ was looking forward to a continued relationship with Prof Marwala. “Prof Marwala is a leader, academic, intellectual and thought-leader who has been active in the policy arena as well as shaping the future of UJ and the higher education sector. This calibre of leadership is deeply valued as our sector has been through the pandemic crisis and concomitant challenges. UJ will continue on its path to lead the charge as a diverse, inclusive, transformational and collegial institution.”

More about Prof Marwala

Prior to his appointment as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UJ, he was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalization, a position he held since 2013. He has also served as the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (2009-2013). Between 2003 and 2008, Prof Marwala was a visiting scholar at Harvard University, University of California at Berkeley, Wolfson College of the University of Cambridge and Nanjing Tech University.

Furthermore, he has been a member of the International Consultative Council at the Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland, International Visiting Committee at Case Western Reserve University and a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Prof Marwala holds a doctorate specialising in Artificial Intelligence and Engineering from the University of Cambridge, a Master of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pretoria and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University. He is a registered professional engineer, a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Science of South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences and the South African Academy of Engineering.

Prof Marwala is also member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a distinguished member of the Association for Computing Machinery. He is fluent in English, Venda and Afrikaans.

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