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University of Johannesburg (UJ) broadens search for next Vice-Chancellor

Statement by University of Johannesburg (UJ) Chair of Council, Prof Roy Marcus on the Search for UJ’s Next Vice-Chancellor

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) today (Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017) agreed to broaden its global search among highly qualified academics as it works to identify a capable successor to the current Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Ihron Rensburg.

UJ’s specially constituted Selection Committee convened today, tasked the University’s Human Resources Department and the executive search organisation assisting it with widening the net before a short list can be presented to the University Council. This is due to take place in March following an internal consultation process which will see the shortlisted candidates presented to Council for consideration, after which these candidates will undergo fitness-for-purpose assessments, make presentations to Senate and the Institutional Forum, and participate in an interview with the University Selection Panel. It is expected that Council will make the final appointment at its June 2017 meeting.

“Because UJ has under Prof Rensburg’s leadership made such enormous strides in transforming and becoming more accessible while significantly improving quality and standards academically, we are determined to identify and win for the University an individual of exceptional ability,” said Council Chair Professor Roy Marcus. “The exhaustive international search process has thus far identified a number of excellent candidates for the long list discussed today, but the search committee felt that further effort was necessary to ensure that only the very best candidates are put forward, thereby ensuring that the shortlist and the further process will bring forth an exceptional leader as we move into the future.”

Prof Rensburg was appointed to his current position in 2006, soon after the formation of the University through an amalgamation of the former Rand Afrikaans University, the Soweto campus of Vista University, and the Technikon Witwatersrand. Driving transformation and academic excellence, he has played a decisive role in ensuring that the new institution has rapidly become much more than simply the sum of its parts.

“UJ was placed among the top four percent of universities globally in the prestigious QS World University Rankings for 2014/15, and it is now considered Africa’s leading comprehensive university despite not having a medical school,” said Prof Marcus. “At the heart of South Africa’s biggest and economically important city, UJ has under Prof Rensburg’s leadership become an example to be emulated for access and inclusion, most notably through the upgrading of the Soweto campus in infrastructure and academic terms, making it a beacon of learning, teaching, and transformation for the country’s most iconic township.”

Since 2006, UJ student numbers have grown by roughly 5 000 or just more than 10%, while the demographic profile has changed from approximately 60% black students in 2005 to 91% of undergraduate and postgraduate students today who come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. At the same time, UJ has transformed its academic landscape, moving from 147 black academics representing 20.6% of Faculty in 2006 to 452 today, equal to 39% of Faculty.

“Best of all, this significant and very necessary transformation has gone hand in hand with an increase in the University’s academic output and achievement,” said Prof Marcus. “The number of graduates has risen from 10 037 in 2005, to 13 000 last year, while research output accredited and recognised by the Department of Higher Education and Training increased by a staggering 292.6% between 2005 and 2015.”

Among its many achievements in the past decade in empowering young people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds with skills and knowledge, UJ now produces fully 25% of all black candidate chartered accountants entering the profession in South Africa. Besides offering students and teachers from across Africa an academic home as it builds its role as a pan African centre of excellence, the University today counts 171 National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researchers, six of them A rated, while the number of distinguished NRF chairs has climbed from zero to 12.

As the site of the NRF Centre of Excellence for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis (CIMERA), UJ academics make a crucial contribution to the economy and to the country’s body of technical and scientific knowledge. The introduction of a new degree course, the Bachelor of Engineering Technology, is ensuring that industry gets well trained graduates with improved skills set than ever before.

“Crucial to these successes, which place UJ in the front row of South Africa’s academic institutions, is the care and attention given to nurturing young people, particularly those who are the first from their families to go to university and who need added support to master their courses,” said Prof Marcus. “With 3 500 tutors in the continent’s largest program of this kind supporting our young people, UJ can truly lay claim to the title of the New Democratic South African University.”

UJ aims to make the successor to Prof Rensburg as Vice-Chancellor and Principal known in the second half of this year. The announcement will be preceded by a thorough vetting process, including a series of in-depth interviews, presentations by the candidates to a number of representative university bodies, situational tests, and negotiations with the chosen candidate.

The new Vice-Chancellor and Principal is expected to take office in January 2018.

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