Vice-Chancellor Message – 13 October 2023

Dear UJ Community,

I wanted to start with some recent developments and other exciting matters in our University, but the sports fever that has gripped much of the globe has had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I cannot resist sharing my excitement about the upcoming Rugby World Cup fixture on Sunday when our national team, the Springboks, lock horns with the host nation, France, in the quarterfinals. The Springboks have had an excellent run in the tournament thus far, having inflicted heavy defeats on Tonga, Romania and Scotland and I am cautiously optimistic about the game on Sunday.

More SA sport heroics on the global stage

The national cricket team, the Proteas, have also had a good start in the World Cup in India, having defeated Sri Lanka this past weekend and Australia yesterday, by big margins in the group stages. I wish the teams all the best in their respective tournaments. I hope that the outstanding showing by our national teams will spur our UJ Sport teams on to do even better, following their recent strings of good results.

Strengthening collaborations with the European Union

Following my return from the United Kingdom (UK) earlier this week, where I led a UJ delegation to launch the UJ Alumni Chapter, we also had several other exciting engagements with strategic partner universities, including with the Erasmus Plus on Wednesday. Erasmus Plus is the European Union’s (EU) programme to support education, training, youth and sport, primarily through funding and scholarships. Over the course of the week, we dissected opportunities for cooperation between Europe and Africa in the field of Education and Training.

This programme has been pivotal in our story as a relatively young institution. As a university that emphasises impactful research that addresses the various United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contributes to policy development, we are well-placed for a programme of this magnitude. In 2023, for instance, UJ coordinated three consortiums under the Erasmus Capacity Building for Higher Education Strand as well as the Virtual Exchange Programme. I do not doubt that this programme will continue to define our cultural and global networking exchanges and that new and exciting opportunities will emerge.

Recognition for UJ’s Faculty of Law

One of the crucial aspects that our University is renowned for is the extent to which various public and private institutions tap into the intellectual capital of its various experts to strengthen their focus areas. Last week, the Chief Justice announced that the Judicial Services Commission will consider legal academics and senior legal practitioners for appointment directly to the Constitutional Court. I am pleased to announce that President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Professor David Bilchitz from our UJ Faculty of Law as the first academic to act on the Constitutional Court next year.

The appointment was made on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice and with the concurrence of the Chief Justice in terms of the Constitution. This is indeed a fitting appointment, considering that Prof Bilchitz is an expert in fundamental rights and constitutional law. He is also a Vice-President of the International Association of Constitutional Law and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, among other roles.

Recognition for UJ’s JBS

I am also pleased to announce that Dean Randall Carolissen from the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) has been appointed as Vice-Chair of the board of the South African Business Schools Association (SABSA). This prestigious appointment reflects JBS’s commitment to excellence and Dr Carolissen’s dedication to advancing societal impact through business education across Africa. We are incredibly proud of this achievement and look forward to Dr Carolissen’s positive contribution to the SABSA executive mandate.

Professorial Inaugurations

This week, we welcomed Bilainu Oboirien (a Professor of Chemical Engineering) and Lizelle Piater (a Professor of Biochemistry) to the UJ Professorship. In his address Prof Oboirien explored how Biomass gasification has been identified as a key technology in achieving flexibility in modern bioenergy systems and for energy transition. In her inaugural address, Prof Piater shared how her research journey has led to diverse fields of interest that, while seemingly unrelated, are connected by the common theme of biochemistry. We are pleased to welcome both Prof Oboirien and Prof Piater to our professorship, and we look forward to their contributions as they embark on this new journey.

Winners of the Double Our Future Impact campaign announced!

On a slightly different note, you would recall that we recently ran a competition, where staff who donated R100 or more towards the Double Our Future Impact campaign could win a HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro valued at R26 999 or a HUAWEI Watch GT2 valued at R6 999. I wish to congratulate the competition winners, who were announced at the recent UJ Staff Day. The Huawei Mate 50 Pro winner is Mr JPC Eriksons, a UJ alumni. The winner of the Huawei Watch GT is Mr MJ Mvelase, a lecturer in the Department of Physics.

I thank everyone for the generous contribution to this campaign that is aimed at assisting the University in settling registration fees for students who cannot pay their registration at the start of the 2024 academic year. We hope to help 10,000 students with their registration fees. Please Donate Now!

End-of-year exams and assessments 

As we draw closer to the end of what has been a remarkable year, a carnival atmosphere returned to our University this week as we began our Spring graduation ceremonies. Against this backdrop, I also extend my best wishes to all our students as they prepare for the upcoming year-end examinations. You have come a long way, and your hard work and dedication have brought you to this point. I encourage you to remain focused and maintain the same spirit as we approach the final stretch.

Remember that should you ever feel anxious or overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to contact our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD). They are here to support students in various ways. Whether you prefer a walk-in service, individual counselling sessions, or need immediate assistance through our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137), help is readily available without the need for an appointment. I am confident that your hard work will pay off, and the results at the end of this period will be something to celebrate!

VC Staff Engagement

I invite you to the third leg of the VC Staff Engagement discussion this coming Monday, 16 October 2023, at the Auckland Park Bunting Road (APB) Campus, from 10:30 to 12:00. We will meet at the Sun International Auditorium, the Kerzner Building, School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH). If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed at the engagement or if you have a question, please send an email to

High Tea with the VC

Following the resounding success of the recent High Tea with the VC when I hosted (former Chairman and founder of SizweNtsalubaGobodo (now SNG Grant Thornton) I invite you to my next book discussion next week Friday. I will be joined by Xoli KaMadlala and we will discuss her book, The Peri Menopausal Globetrotter. The event will return to the UJ Library at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus in the Chinua Achebe Auditorium Level 6, at the usual time of 14h00 (CAT). For in-person attendance, kindly RSVP here. For virtual attendance, I will share the link closer to the event.

Watch the previous High Tea here:

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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