The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi presented the 2023 Global Excellence and Stature (GES) Award to Dr Kakha Shengelia, President of Caucasus University, in Tbilisi, Georgia at a ceremony held on Monday February 27, 2023.
Dr Shengelia was previously acknowledged and celebrated at the annual Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for contributing to the world wide vision of global higher education as a figure who promotes peace and international understanding through education and exemplary leadership.
“His emphasis on global excellence and stature finds many parallels at UJ and there are lessons and opportunities to be gained,” said Prof Mpedi.
The GES award was conceptualised in recent years and is not awarded every year but only where there are exceptional nominations.
“We are gathered in recognition of exceptional excellence. At UJ we have long emphasised excellence and celebrated it when demonstrated. An important aspect of our strategy has been our focus on internationalisation and partnerships. There are enormous benefits to be gained from engaging internationally to increase our profile and research capability. International collaboration in higher education leads to breakthroughs in knowledge, the free exchange of ideas and enduring bonds between institutions and nations,” added Prof Mpedi.
Dr Shengelia has championed intercultural, scientific and intellectual exchanges and demonstrated exemplary leadership throughout his career in line with UJ’s emphasis on global excellence within the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the current focus on societal impact.
“As UJ enters a new phase, I am certain that it is this very spirit of excellence and the important relationships that we have cultivated that will guide us. This will be a constant source of inspiration as we continue to embody innovation and resilience.”
Dr. Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport, spoke on the importance of having such relationships.
“Relationships between universities are like relationships between people, they require common values, vision, commitment, and the ability to adapt to each other’s lives. They allow for self-expression, determination and joint planning and outcomes.”
Prof. Kammila Naidoo, Executive Dean: Faculty of Humanities, added that universities had a key role to play through open conversations, innovative teachings and research to address the big problems of the world – inequality, injustice, violence and war.
“A highly educated world will strive more readily for peace, a better understanding of differences between people and nations and a tolerance and appreciation of complexity.
Dr Shengelia’s emphasis on education to enhance sustainable development, competent structures and informed global citizenry is at the core of something radical and visionary.”
Prof Naidoo added that she looked forward to strengthening the partnership with the Caucasus University through joint programmes, staff and student exchanges as well as initiating meaningful dialogues.
Upon receiving the award Dr Shengelia said it was inspiring to see so many shining icons of education and development come together to discuss the future of education worldwide.
“I hope this occasion will allow us to forge a better relationship between our universities. By opening this new page between Georgia and South Africa I hope to forge successful ties between us. This is an opportunity to create something new and beautiful for our students and staff from both countries.”
Dr Shengelia also announced the news that Prof Mpedi would be honoured with a honorary doctorate later this year at the Caucasus University.
Last year, outgoing Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala was recognised through an honorary doctorate at the Caucasus University for his academic leadership and progress in the 4IR.
The GES Award forms part of UJ’s Global Excellence and Stature (GES 4.0) objective to position UJ as a leader in developing people and technology appropriate for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as it pertains to the African context.