Vice-Chancellor Message – 23 April 2021

vice chancellor message

Dear UJ Community.

Earlier this week, a significant development at our university reminded me of a phrase that my late grandmother, Vho-Tshianeo Marwala, liked to use whenever she thought I was being lazy. Vho-Tshianeo, an industrious and hard to please person, would often say, “Mulimi asakoni ushuma mvulani kana duvhani, a nga si vhe na tshine a kana” (loosely translated “A farmer who would not work inside the rain and under the sun, would have nothing to harvest.” You also know of the saying that “you reap what you sow”), isn’t it?”

I found myself reminiscing about this after the release of the latest global University rankings, which reaffirmed our University’s stature as the fastest growing institution of higher learning in South Africa and on the African continent. According to the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, released on Wednesday, 21 April 2020, UJ is ranked in the 1st position in the world for Decent Work and Economic Growth. UJ also features among the global Top 100 (92nd) in the various United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in terms of impact.

This is a remarkable feat given that these rankings are a pioneering initiative that recognises universities across the world for their social and economic impact. They are designed to address the most serious and critical global challenges of our time. This demonstrates that we are not just a brick-and-mortar University but that we are actively striving to make a difference.

As I have argued before, University rankings are important in contributing towards improving universities and enabling South Africa to meet its social, political and economic objectives, and ultimately improving the quality of life. Additionally, improved university rankings are crucial if we are to enhance our chances for funding.

In this regard, I am pleased to announce that for the second year running, the Health and Welfare SETA (HWSETA) has provided funding for UJ’s Health Sciences students who could not be funded by NSFAS. This year, HWSETA has committed R27m for 204 students across various domains within the Faculty. As UJ, and on behalf of our Faculty of Health Sciences, we are eternally grateful to HWSETA for this support. They have demonstrated that they are truly committed to supporting the skills development of health professionals within South Africa.

In the same vein, please join me in congratulating Professor Philiswa Nomngongo, the SARChI Chair, Nanotechnology for Water and Professor in Environmental Analytical Chemistry, on her professorial inauguration on Thursday, 22 April 2021. Prof Nomngongo’s inauguration address, titled Nanotechnology and Environmental Analytical Chemistry: Current Status and Future Perspectives, delved into the broad field of nanotechnology. It had a special focus on the application of nanotechnology in water and wastewater treatment as well as the future perspectives in the development of methodologies that are consistent with green chemistry principles. Prof Nomngongo, well done, we are immensely proud of you! To watch her address, click here.

On a different note, and in line with our 4IR strategic objective, last week on Thursday, 15 April 2021, UJ launched its first podcast, on conversations with academics working on COVID-related research. Podcasts have seen a steady rise in popularity over the last decade. This global phenomenon has seen more than 1.7 million podcasts and 43 million episodes published worldwide just this year alone. With a similar format to talk radio this rise in popularity largely coincides with a general increase in digital media consumption, specifically on mobile devices. You can listen to the podcast here: It is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Please contact Reneka Panday ( if you would like to join this initiative.

On a more sombre note, the recent runaway fires that engulfed parts of Cape Town along Table Mountain and parts of UCT gutted the Reading Room of the institution’s famous Jagger Library. The library houses UCT’s special collections comprising valuable archival material such as anti-apartheid documentation, manuscripts and one of the world’s largest African film collections. As UJ, we are saddened by this tragic event, as the materials are treasures that we strive to preFaculty Health Sciencesserve and guard. We also wish to laud UCT, under the leadership of Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, for their swift response to this disaster.

Next week Tuesday, 27 April 2021, marks Freedom Day in South Africa. As we celebrate this important day, we should take a moment to reflect on the strides we have made in transforming our country into an inclusive society, as articulated in our much-revered Constitution. Although we still have a way to go, the achievements we have made through the years are apparent and palpable across many sectors of our society. Despite this, we cannot ignore the reality that the arrival of democracy has not eradicated all the problems of our nation. The challenges of deep-seated inequality, poverty and a burgeoning unemployment rate still remain stark. As Oliver Tambo once said, “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”

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.

Ndo livhuwa, enkosi, baie dankie!

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg

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

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