With few black research academics in South Africa, twenty one years after democracy, the transformation and sustainability of the South African Higher Education landscape has come into sharp focus. Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Innovation, Postgraduate Studies and the Library at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), is addressing this grand challenge by unearthing, nurturing and supporting research talent in people from designated groups to achieve world-class research excellence.
The National Research Foundation (NRF) honoured Prof Marwala (44) with a special recognition award for altering the course of the South African national research landscape. Prof Marwala was presented with the Champion of Research Capacity Development at South African Higher Education Intuitions Award at a prestigious ceremony held on Thursday, 27 August 2015 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
This NRF Award 2015, that is dependent on the number of students in the designated groups that have been trained, as well as the quality and impact of research outputs of the students, reflects Prof Marwala’s passion for developing human capacity and knowledge generation that significantly impacts South Africa.
Prof Marwala has an extensive track record in human capacity development having supervised 45 Master’s and 18 PhD students to completion. Of the 31 black South African degrees he supervised, 10 completed their dissertations with distinction. Some of these students have proceeded with their doctoral and post-doctoral studies at leading universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, British Columbia, Rutgers, Purdue and Concordia.
Says Prof Marwala: “I am profoundly moved and humbled to receive this recognition. For me, the only economic policy that makes sense is to capacitate people to think independently and in an innovative, confident manner so they can tackle the world with all its complexity. Then we have individuals who see a problem and think of solutions with socio-economic value.”