The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ihron Rensburg, on Monday, 19 August 2013 during the VC’s campus engagement on the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, met with staff and students about the progress the University had made, noting key achievements of 2012 and the future going beyond 2013.
The campus engagements come at an opportune time when UJ’s new vision, mission and values statements are being echoed to all staff, students and the UJ community. The visit particularly reiterated the value of Conversation, where the VC engaged meaningfully with staff and students, and consulted on the decisions and actions the University leadership were making.
The visit also comes at a time when the leadership has made the decision to entrench the core vision of the University within academia, as “an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future” – a vision statement embedded within the heart of the institution.
Looking beyond the merger, Prof Rensburg said that “UJ’s role over the past eight years, since the merger, has been to build an image that staff and students could be proud of. And now that we see the change we are affecting within our society and globally, the next decade we want to shift our focus from an institution of accessible excellence to that of global excellence and stature.”
“We want to be the institution that attracts and retains the best domestic and global students and talent,” he added.
Responding to a question from the audience on what the University is doing to reduce the number of dropouts, Prof Rensburg explained that UJ had already, from the start of 2013, appointed an additional 500 tutors to assist learners with their academic performance, and are currently working on implementing a compulsory lecture and tutorial attendance measure.
Undergraduate first-time entering students’ success rate improved by 3.5%, from 76.5% in 2011 to 80.0% in 2012, mainly due to better selection of first-time entrants and the University’s First Year Experience Programme (FYE) introduced in 2010 aimed at easing the school-to-university transition with the goal of bettering the rates of dropout, typically experienced during the first year at university. Interventions such as the FYE were also critical in the academic development of first-year students.
Prof Rensburg also addressed the overall student experience at UJ, calling on the students to collaborate with the University to transform their university life, reiterating the value of Regeneration, encouraging them to be innovative for the common good, make positive change and take advantage of overlooked opportunities.
“Much of our work now is focused on innovations and interventions in teaching and learning, research, and student experience. What are the three things that you believe the University can do, that we can implement in the next two to three years, that will see a step change in your experience at UJ?” he asked the students. Regarding the issue of crime, safety and security in and around the campuses, Prof Rensburg said that crime was in fact on the decline, despite the recent spate of incidents. He also invited students who had breakthrough ideas to share them with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategic Services, Prof Derek van der Merwe, or Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Affairs, Advancement and Internationalisation, Prof Tinyiko Maluleke.
“We are now in the throes of the crime, safety debate and conversation, and we’re looking to come up with some serious answers soon; answers to measures we can take and implement to ensure the safety of all UJ staff and students,” he said. The next campus engagement session will be held at the Soweto Campus on Friday, 20 September 2013.