Vice-Chancellor Message – 11 June 2021

vice chancellor message

Dear UJ Community

“Excellence,” wrote Aristotle, “is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” I found myself fixated on the words of the Greek philosopher this week, after our University achieved yet another milestone in the world university rankings. UJ is the only university in South Africa to move up in the latest 2022 edition of the QS World University Rankings, released on Wednesday, 9 June 2021.

According to the global rankings, UJ has climbed five places to position 434, thus retaining our position among the top 500 universities in the world. This is our highest-ranking position in this table. We are also the only South African university which has never dropped in this ranking. I dedicate this feat to our entire staff and postdoctoral research fellows who continue to contribute immensely to the University’s success even through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also made possible by our students who have not only embraced technological shifts but are also at the centre of our innovative learning approach. To read more about this, click here.

Our University Registrar, Prof Kinta Burger, and I chatted this week about how we have been regaled by the bountiful images of many of our students in graduation regalia on social media platforms. Due to the restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has had to put together virtual celebrations to celebrate this momentous occasion in our student’s life. Indeed, it has been impressive to notice how, our graduands have found creative ways to make this a momentous occasion. These images provide a glimpse into what makes UJ such a special institution of higher learning. More than 10 000 undergraduate diplomas or degrees and almost 3 000 postgraduate degrees – including more than 500 Master’s and 100 Doctoral degrees – were awarded. Well done to each of our graduates and to the academic and support staff that made it happen!

This graduation season also provided us with the platform to acknowledge five influential individuals who, through their sacrifices, have made sterling contributions to humanity in the socioeconomic and political fields. This vision and purpose make the conferral and acceptance of an Honorary Doctorate a noteworthy gesture of mutual respect. Those awarded with Honorary Doctorates are anti-apartheid activist and the last surviving leader of the Women’s March on 9 August 1956, Ms Sophia Williams-De Bruyn; champion of economic freedom for women, Ms Gloria Serobe; an entrepreneur and pioneer developer of property in previously disadvantaged areas, Mr Mike Nkuna; the American educational theorist and educator, Dr Gloria Ladson-Billings; as well as prominent American scientist, Professor Sylvester James Gates, who is renowned for his work in supersymmetry, supergravity and superstring theory.

Please join me in congratulating Prof Kathleen van der Linde of our Department of Mercantile Law who was appointed by the Amsterdam District Court as an independent expert member of a committee of representation for the Dutch restructuring procedure of Steinhoff International Holdings NV. Following the accounting scandal that first made headlines in December 2017, Steinhoff proposed a global settlement with creditors. The Dutch procedure involves the ultimate holding company and runs in parallel with compromise proceedings in the South African subsidiary. This is an exciting legal development as it is only the second time such a committee has been appointed. The previous occurrence was in 1962, which was the very matter that prompted the legislature to enact this exception. This appointment bears testimony to Prof van der Linde’s reputation as a leading company and insolvency law expert. We wish her well in fulfilling this important and responsible task! Click here to read more about this.

Another exciting appointment is that of Professor of Practice Linda de Beer in the UJ College of Business and Economic (CBE), who has been appointed as non-Executive Director for Shoprite Holdings. She will also serve on the company’s Audit and Risk Committee. You can watch the announcement here.

More good news for our University is that Dr Beate Stiehler-Mulder, a lecturer in the Department of Marketing Management, CBE School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems, has been awarded the Wholesale and Retail Leadership Chair. The aim of this is to improve skills levels in the Wholesale and Retail Sector with the aim of attracting young talent through the development of qualifications at NQF Levels 5 to 10 and innovative research. I wish Dr Stiehler-Mulder great success in this important role! Click here to read more about this.

Furthermore, our head in the Department of Social Work, Prof Adrian van Breda, was recently recognised and thanked for his seven years of service as Vice-President of Resilio (The International Association for the Promotion and Dissemination of the Research on Resilience) and made an honorary life member during the 5th World Congress on Resilience. Congratulations Prof van Breda!

I would also like to congratulate the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) on being one of five South African tertiary institutions to receive the Sentech Research Chair. The Research Chair is valued at R4.5 million and will focus on three areas: 5G and its impact on environmental health, 5G and Emerging Communications Technology for Information and Signal Processing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and IOT-Driven New Enterprise and Revenue Generating Opportunities. These three research focus areas will be led by UJ, with Sentech coordinating activities through a planned Research Hub. Congratulations to Profs Naidoo and Mashao for championing this initiative!

I am pleased to announce that UJ has recently signed a collaborative agreement with the National School of Government (NSG), a training institution tasked with building public sector capacity to implement the Government’s developmental agenda. UJ will play an important part in improving the organisational performance in public sector institutions through innovative ways of delivering training. According to the Principal, Professor Busani Ngcaweni, UJ’s multidimensional 4IR approach will provide a road map for the public sector, which will further advance public sector effectiveness and efficiencies. Congratulations to the Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), Prof Babu Paul, for providing academic leadership, and Ms Daphney Nemakhavhani, Director: Development Office, for coordinating our bid.

Lastly, the University co-hosted the Moses Kotane Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, 9 June 2021, Chairperson of the African National Congress and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Hon. Gwede Mantashe, was the guest speaker. The issue of corruption took centre stage, and there was a rallying call for active citizenship alongside the need to understand what good governance is, in order to improve self-delivery.

As usual, I remind you to notify our campus clinics if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you know of a colleague or a student who has tested positive. 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: We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing ( at all times.     

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