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Vice-Chancellor Message – 02 October 2020

Dear UJ Community


As I was walking through the corridors of our University this week, I could sense the excitement, especially among those of our students and academics who are back on campus following the short spring break. I trust that you are returning to the University with renewed determination and that the last quarter of the 2020 academic programme will be rewarding for us all.

As you are aware, the National Lockdown has challenged all universities to do things differently, to be innovative and agile in business solutions and to rethink standard operating procedures. At UJ, we acted fast and accommodated several initiatives, not only in support of the continuation of the academic programme but also in ensuring students’ success in completing the 2020 academic year. Most of our students and staff embraced the use of technology platforms as part of our approach to teaching and learning. This was evident with the improved pass rate when it comes to the first semester’s undergraduate academic results. Now, as we enter the final stretch, I encourage all our students to remain focused as they gear up for their year-end examinations, which are now only a few weeks away.

Many of you would agree that the further relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions from Lockdown Level 2 to Level 1 has come at a fitting time as the country moves from spring to summer. However, as the University goes ahead with its comprehensive plans of campuses reintegration activities, I would like to remind you that it is vital that all students, staff and visitors feel comfortable, confident and safe on our campuses. There is increasing evidence that the wearing of face masks reduces the transmission of the coronavirus. Therefore, I urge you to wear a face mask in communal areas on campuses and to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres at all times.

This season also ushers in a new era for our student leadership. You might recall from my previous messages that our Student Representative Council (SRC) is in the process of reelection and is making headway in this regard. Voting gives you an opportunity, through the elected representatives, to be part of the decision-making that affects your life at the University. To our students, make your voice heard by voting for your preferred representatives. The voting process will be officially open from 07 October 2020 at 09:00 to 09 October 2020 at 17:00, via a secure online voting system.

I am pleased that our University continues to set the trend in academic and research achievements, with outstanding contributions by our staff members not going unnoticed. Please join me in congratulating Prof Leila Patel on the renewal of her research chair for another five years. Prof Patel holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development at UJ. Building research capacity is a major focus of the Chair.

Prof Heidi Abrahamse, whose name has been associated with cancer therapy, stem cell differentiation and wound healing was also successful in the renewal of her research chair. South Africans are especially vulnerable to diabetes and cancers. As the Chair in Laser Applications in Health, Prof Abrahamse contributes by introducing both preventative modalities and treatment modalities associated with two of the main non-communicable diseases.

Joining Prof Patel and Prof Abrahamse is Prof Brenda Schmahmann. As the Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture, Prof Schmahmann creates a forum for producing research and enabling capacities which have enormous importance to the heritage and museum sectors, to arts management, to the gallery sector, to the education sector, and which complements and provide invaluable support to the work of art and design practitioners.

I have no doubt that the renewal of these chairs will further elevate the University’s research capabilities, output and global impact. Prof Patel, Prof Abrahamse and Prof Schmahmann, I wish you all the best with the new terms of appointment!

Small businesses are critical to our country’s economy. This is important especially as Statistics South Africa’s recent report revealed concerning numbers of job losses since the implementation of the national lockdown earlier this year. Small, medium and micro enterprises operate in a world where economies and societies are intertwined. These businesses are potential enablers for job creation, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development in both developed and developing countries. Thus, I am delighted to share with you that Dr Stella Bvuma, Head: Department of Applied Information Systems at UJ, has been appointed as a non-executive member to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) board. Recognised for her work in information and communication technologies for development, particularly in the townships and rural areas, Dr Bvuma will add value to the economic growth and development in South Africa. You are an insightful ambassador, Dr Bvuma. Continue the great work!

Our Alumni continues to make positive strides in their respective domains. This past Wednesday, our School of Tourism and Hospitality recognised the industry contributions of two of its graduates. Mr Jeff Rosenberg, who formally retired from the industry after 43 years of service, was acknowledged with the 2020 Golden Circle Alumnus Award and Ms Mahlatse Lentsoane, who graduated in 2018, received the Rising Star Alumnus Award. The event also served as an opportunity to honour, engage and reflect on the substantial contributions of the School alumni and partners, critical over this period as the tourism and hospitality sector works to bounce back from the devastating effects of COVID-19.

An exciting initiative is currently underway at our Graduate School of Architecture (GSA). The School is introducing weekly Friday online seminars with international guest practitioners spanning various architectural disciplines. These sessions, which take place on Microsoft Teams (between 15h00 and 18h00), will investigate different modalities of design research, implicit and embedded knowledge surfaces in the process and production of design to reveal motivations, influences and values of individual or collective spatial histories in informing new knowledge. If you or someone you know are interested in attending these seminars, please follow the event postings and/or contact Ms Leslé Ince-Garcia at

On a different note, I was extremely thrilled to see that the world is still dancing to “Jerusalema,” a rousing anthem to lift our spirits amid the global strides to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The song captured the imagination of people across the globe as it did at UJ! My heart swelled with pride as staff and student groups heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to participate in the Jerusalema dance challenge that marked this year’s Heritage Day celebrations. I wish that I could have joined you!

Lastly, a busy period of improvements across our campuses continues, and is likely to cause some disruption. These are essential works and we greatly appreciate your understanding and patience during this time. For those members of our UJ community who have not had the time to visit our Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, a newly revamped parking lot that has been fitted with solar panels on the roofs will greet you. Yes, UJ has entered the solar energy era and I am confident that this solar power initiative will provide an accessible energy option to our UJ community.

Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: http://localhost/wordpress/corona-virus//. We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures,  hygiene and social distancing at all times.

Le ipshine ka mafelelo a beke, ge le bokeletša matla a go thoma beke ye e latelago. (Enjoy the weekend as you recharge for the week ahead).

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg

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