Vice-Chancellor Message – 03 November 2023

Dear UJ community,

Despite the cold snap that engulfed Gauteng earlier this week, spring is definitely in the air, and summer is fast approaching. It is pleasing to see our gardens on our campuses regaining their lush greenery, which offers a relaxing and calming atmosphere conducive to learning, working and living. I have also been impressed by the cleanliness of many of our campuses.

Towards a Green Campus

Considering our initiatives, such as planting additional trees across our spaces, our food gardens, and our deliberate migration to solar energy and water-saving initiatives, we are steadfastly contributing to our Green Campus campaign. It represents our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly with regards to improving energy efficiency, conserving resources, enhancing environmental quality, and ensuring a future for generations to come.

In recent weeks, as I walked around our campuses, I expected the same standard as we all should have this collective goal. Alas, this was not to be. I was rather disappointed to come across pieces of paper and plastics, along with other forms of litter. Littering is more than just a blight on our landscape; it accumulates into the garbage that eventually ends up in our landscapes, waterways, rivers and oceans. Not only is it harmful to our health, to our quality of life, endangering our precious wildlife, but also our collective future.

Recently, our University has, through the Office of the Campus Director, in partnership with our Community Engagement Unit within University Relations, embarked on Clean Campus campaigns to rid our spaces of the scourge of littering. But as you can imagine, such campaigns, although voluntary, are costly. People have to sacrifice time and energy to clean up the messes created by some in our midst.

Littering is an irresponsible behaviour that we should all desist from. We should break the very culture that views littering as acceptable or excusable. I am confident that under Dr Mpoti Relapata’s (Chief Operations Officer)’s leadership, we will rid our campuses of this ugly scourge

UJ soars further in Global Rankings

On a positive note, I am thrilled to announce that our University has recorded improved achievements in two prestigious global university ranking systems. In the 2024 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings by Subject (THE Subject Rankings 2024), released on Thursday, 26 October 2023, UJ has been ranked in 11 subjects, climbing in 8 subjects and maintaining its position in one subject.

UJ has also continued its remarkable journey towards academic excellence in the  2023 Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS). The 2023 edition of these rankings, released on 27 October 2023, highlights the University’s diverse accomplishments. UJ debuted in five subjects, re-entered one, climbed in three subjects and maintained its ranking in three others. To read more about these results, click here.

UJ notches top spot in SA’s Facebook University Rankings

In other related news, I am also pleased to announce that UJ has achieved an outstanding performance in the 2023 Facebook University Rankings. In this latest uniRank evaluation, UJ has not only claimed the leading position among South African universities, but our University has also earned a spot among the top 200 universities globally on Facebook. The uniRank Facebook University Ranking acts as a vital gauge, providing a non-academic League Table that ranks global universities according to the popularity of their primary Facebook page, quantified by the number of likes and followers.

This remarkable achievement is marked by a significant climb, as we advanced from the 80th position to a more prestigious 63rd position. What sets UJ apart is its reputation as one of the most admired educational institutions on Facebook, with an impressive following of 675,000 and an outstanding 607,000 likes on its Facebook page as of November 2023. I thank Dr Nolitha Vukuza (Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport) and her Communications, Marketing and Brand teams for contributing to this feat; well done! Click here to read more about this.

UJ launches Building Inspector Programme

In a significant development, UJ has, in partnership with established public and private sector entities, launched the Building Inspector Short Learning Programme tailored to equip learners with practical hands-on experience in building inspections. This programme recognises a critical industry gap: the shortage of skilled professionals with the expertise required to conduct thorough building inspections and assessments.

Prospective candidates are expected to meet specific educational and employment criteria and hold at least a National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 6 qualification or an equivalent credential in disciplines relevant to the built environment field. To read more about this, click here. I congratulate Professor Daniel Mashao (Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment) and his team for launching this exciting programme!

AI podcast to reshape teaching, learning and research

Another exciting development is that our Division for Teaching Excellence (DTE) has created a podcast focusing on Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) potential for students and staff. The podcast explores how AI can reshape teaching, learning, and research and explores the transformative journey of  Artificial Intelligence in Academia with Professor Grace Leung (Vice-Dean: Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Science) and Professor Kirti Menon (Senior Director: Division for Teaching and Excellence). Congratulations on this innovative initiative. Well done, colleagues!

New UJ Student Leadership

Following the recent elections for the Student Representative Council (UJSRC), we now have a new student leadership. According to the audited results, the new administration is as follows:

  • Auckland Park Bunting Road (APB) campus: South African Student Congress (SASCO)
  • Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campus: Economic Freedom Fighters Student Chapter (EFFSC).
  • Doornfontein Campus (DFC): EFFSC
  • Soweto Campus (SWC): SASCO

Therefore, the 2024 UJSRC will comprise 50% EFFSC and 50% SASCO. Given that the UJSRC has 48 portfolios, 24 will be for EFFSC, and the other 24 will be for SASCO. Notably, an audit of the results shows that there was no single objection and/or appeal received. This speaks to the credibility of the election process.

All the campus SRCs were constituted on 27 October 2023. The Electoral Committee is in the process of constituting the central SRC. The term of office of the elected UJSRC will be from 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2024. I wish to congratulate Dr Vukuza and her team in Student Affairs for running such a successful election. Democracy is indeed being put into practice at UJ. Well done, everybody!

Félicitations Springboks!

I wish to congratulate our men’s national rugby team, the Springboks, for winning the World Cup, after defeating New Zealand, this past weekend. As expected last week, their victory evoked scenes of the euphoria of 1995, when the Bokke defeated the All Blacks to claim the coveted William Webb Ellis trophy in Johannesburg.

Seeing the country united in celebrating the team’s victory this week has been euphoric. As Captain Siya Kolisi said, in a message echoing Nelson Mandela’s sentiment in 1995, “There’s so much division in the country, it is possible to work together as South Africans, not just on the rugby field, but in life in general…”

Bonne chance Proteas

In the same vein, I congratulate our national cricket team, the Proteas, for their sterling performance in the Cricket World Cup in India so far. They continued where they left off last week, winning against Pakistan and New Zealand on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively. I wish them all the best as they reach the final stretch of the group matches, when they face the host nation, India on Sunday, and Afghanistan on Friday next week.

Tackling homelessness

Lastly, click here to read my latest article in the Daily Maverick, in which I reflect on homelessness as an issue that extends beyond lacking a roof over your head. As the recent census has demonstrated, this is a significant scourge. Homelessness is a socio-economic challenge that requires policies that tackle its root causes. In this article, I explore possible interventions and call for policy implementation.

Ke a leboha, ngiyabonga, thank you, baie dankie!

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time zone.

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