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Vice-Chancellor Message – 19 May 2023

Dear UJ Community,

As an academic and lifetime student, I have long been fascinated by the debate about whether university rankings are relevant. I have come to appreciate how the rankings influence one’s decision when choosing a university, whether locally or abroad. For instance, before making my final choices, I did not have the luxury of visiting the universities I intended to apply to or where I was offered space abroad.

As such, I had to have unbiased and objective information about such institutions beforehand. University rankings also serve another important purpose; they assist universities in gauging the success of their strategic plans and how these improve the quality of their academic programmes and research impact.

UJ ranked among the leading institutions in the world

In this regard, and in case you missed the latest university rankings news, I am pleased to share that UJ is now ranked among the top 3.1% of universities worldwide, at position 628 globally. This is according to the latest 2023 global ranking from the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), released on Monday, 15 May 2023. Since its debut in position 951 six years ago, UJ has consistently climbed these rankings.

For the 2023 edition of this ranking, 20 531 institutions were assessed, making it the largest academic ranking of global universities. Of those universities evaluated, only the best 2 000 made the final cut and attained a ranking placement in the published list.

UJ’s latest ranking is a noteworthy achievement demonstrating our commitment to excellence and its dedication to providing high-quality education and research. This feat would not have been possible without the commitment and sacrifices of our academic and support/administrative staff and our students. I thank each of you for your dedication to this pursuit of excellence. To read more about this, click here.

UJ Sport proves its mettle on the global stage

It was mentioned on this platform last week that the UJ Sport Athletics Club were crowned champions of the 2023 University Sports South Africa (USSA) this past Saturday, 6 May 2023, in Bloemfontein. Not content with this achievement at the local level, and in typical UJ spirit, our Sport Division has taken its competitive edge to the international level. It is with immense pride that I learnt that UJ was among the universities that participated in the International Rowing Regatta of University Eights – St Dujam at the University of Split in Croatia from 13 to 14 May 2023.

It was particularly encouraging to see that our Rowing senior men’s A 8+ team was among the top four universities, beaten only by Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London – all universities with a long history of excellence in rowing on the world stage. This is an impressive achievement for our team, given the level of competition and the stature of the universities that competed in the race.

Congratulations to the Orange Army, the technical team, senior management and support staff. A special thanks to Dr Nolitha Vukuza (Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport and MEC member) who led the UJ delegation to the tournament in Croatia and for motivating the team.

International Association of University Presidents

As communicated last week, Prof Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Senior Director for the Division for Internationalisation) and I were away in Cairo, Egypt, last week, representing UJ at the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) 2023 Semi-Annual Meeting. The IAUP is a global network of university leaders and institutions dedicated to improving the world through higher education, so its importance cannot be underestimated. The theme for the 2023 IUAP was ‘Recovery and transformation: Innovation and inclusion’.

Amongst many other areas, our collective work towards the UNESCO 2030 Education for Sustainable Development Roadmap and lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic were debated. The IAUP consists of university chief executives from higher education institutions worldwide who strive for excellence in various areas. These included increasing the exchange of experiences, levels of collaboration and networking between university leaders, providing a well-informed forum for university leaders throughout the world and contributing to a worldwide vision of higher education.

The scourge of absent fathers

One of the issues that can easily be overlooked is that of absent fathers. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share my insights at a Men’s Forum event organised by our Transformation Unit. We need to elevate this matter to a national dialogue, given that South Africa has an exceptionally high number of absent fathers, with approximately half of the children living without daily contact with their fathers.

A study of absent fathers in Johannesburg conducted by our University in 2013 found that the country’s fatherhood crisis is linked to the broader historical, social, economic and cultural context. The authors, Mazembo Mavungu Eddy, Hayley Thomson-de Boor, and Karabo Mphaka, asserted that widespread father absence has detrimental consequences for families and society. As I argued, addressing fatherlessness requires comprehensive strategies focusing on family support, education, employment opportunities, and community engagement to provide support systems and promote positive male involvement in children’s lives. I laud the Transformation Unit for organising such an important event, and I hope conversations such as this will spur change.

High Tea with the VC

I remind you to attend today’s hybrid VC Book Discussion, or High Tea with the VC as it is known, at the usual time of 14:00 (CAT/SAST). As previously communicated, the book for discussion will be Never Too Young to Lead: A Call for the Youth to Rise by Mr Lebogang Isaac Maile, a South African politician and the MEC for Human Settlements and Infrastructure Development in Gauteng. Mr Maile will join the discussion as a special guest. We will again meet at the Chinua Achebe Auditorium, Level 6, Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus for in-person attendance. For virtual attendance, please click here.

Word of Gratitude

I am grateful to our Chief Financial Officer, Ms Nolwazi Mamorare, for standing in for me while I was away in Egypt last week. I also thank the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the School of Public Management, Governance and Public Policy (SPMGPP) for organising such an auspicious event last week Wednesday, featuring the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Mr Lesetja Kganyago. It was indeed an interesting discussion on the current state of our economy. If you missed his address and interaction with the audience, you can watch it here.

Lastly, I invite those of you who may be interested to read my latest article titled, South Africa needs to adopt fertility-friendly workplace policies to recognise assisted reproductive technologies, which appeared in the Daily Maverick this week. In it, I argue in favour of South Africa adopting a code of good practice for fertility-friendly policies in the workplace as many employees grapple with the physical, emotional and financial challenges of infertility.

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

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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

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