Vice-Chancellor Message – 23 June 2023

Dear UJ Community,

With our University going on a midyear semester recess today, I thought I should start on a slightly different note. One of the things I will miss during the break is the vibrancy of our campuses and the sight of our students and staff, particularly in our University’s orange colours or other regalia bearing the UJ logo and other insignia. It is something I deeply value because it expresses pride for UJ and a passion for an authentic engagement with the UJ brand beyond our daily tasks and responsibilities.

Know your UJ logo and use it correctly

However, it has come to my attention that there are still many instances where the UJ corporate identity – and particularly the UJ logo – is being used incorrectly. I urge staff members to ensure they represent UJ correctly by following the brand guidelines and using the correct logo, letterheads, PowerPoint templates and other collateral. You can download the correct logo and all other corporate identity assets in the  Brand Folder on the Intranet.

The Marketing and Brand team within the University Relations Division is currently running an email banner campaign, which will give you more information on the correct use and meaning of these assets. For instance, the two birds – representing staff and students – come together around an open book, holding the torch of knowledge. It implies a place where futures are written and reimagined. The orange colour symbolises the warm tones associated with Johannesburg – the City of Gold.

Accolade for the ‘University of Johannesburg Pension Fund’

Still on brand UJ matters, I am thrilled to announce that the ‘University of Johannesburg Pension Fund’ has been named by the World Finance Pension Fund Awards judging committee/panel as the ‘Best Pension Fund – South Africa – 2023’. This is an excellent achievement, considering that the pension fund industry has had to navigate the pressures and uncertainties of the COVID-19 crisis alongside rising interest rates, rising inflation, and a challenging investment environment.

More encouraging were the views of the panel of judges and the wider world finance voting community that they all share a strong admiration for the operational characteristics of the pension fund’s offering. I congratulate our Human Capital Management and Finance departments for this feat. Well done on this award!

Exploring GPT the practical way

The future is being written, one artificially generated chat at a time. In our forthcoming Cloudebate™, on 28 June at 18:00, we invite you to join a discussion on one of the most breakthrough results of 4IR: AI GPT. UJ’s Prof Habib Noorbhai and Dr Herman Myburgh will explore the practical applications of GPT; from booking a trip to London to writing a song about loadshedding! Profs Mags Blackie (Rhodes University) and Danny Oppenheimer (Carnegie Mellon) will speak to Prof Noorbhai about how ChatGPT could be the push that higher education needs to rethink assessments. Transformer or terminator? You decide. Register here for this event.

UJ hosts African Universities basketeers

On the sporting front, today our University welcomes young and talented student basketeers from fourteen African universities, who will compete for the African champions in the 5th Afro Varsity FASU 3×3 Basketball Challenge. This tournament will take place today and tomorrow at the Soweto Campus. Held every second year, the last competition was held in 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. I have no doubt that our Orange Army will do well! Please support the team by attending the games – entry is free of charge.

High Tea with the VC

Although my next hybrid High Tea with the VC book discussion will only be on 21 July 2023, I thought I should inform you now so that you may familiarise yourself with the subject matter for discussion. I will be joined by Jonathan Ancer, a journalist, editor and author, who has won awards for breaking news, feature writing and creative writing.

Mr Ancer has written five books: The Victor WithinSpy: Uncovering Craig WilliamsonBetrayal: The Secret Lives of Apartheid SpiesJoining the Dots: The Unauthorised Biography of Pravin Gordhan; and Mensches in the Trenches: Jewish Foot Soldiers in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle. He is the producer of Amabookabooka, a novel podcast about books and the people who write them, and the creator of Cluedle – a daily cryptic crossword clue challenge.


In recent months, as I have explored the ethics and regulations around artificial reproduction, there have been some glaring questions about the societal implications. For example, the very idea of parenthood is being redefined. In my latest article for the Daily Maverick, I explore the concept of fatherhood, the emergence of different family structures and the impact of fatherlessness when it occurs. To read more on this topic, click here.

Au revoir Prof Sinha

As you have likely heard by now, Prof Saurabh Sinha (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation) has taken up a position at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, effective from 1 July 2023. Through his expertise in the research and electronic engineering fields, Prof Sinha has made a tremendous contribution to the University’s growth in local and international standings. It has been a pleasure working with him, and I wish him all the best in his new journey! I am pleased to announce that Prof Sarah Gravett, our former Executive Dean in the Faculty of Education, has been appointed in this role in an acting capacity.

End of first semester reflections video

As I have alluded, today marks the end of what has been an eventful first semester, defined by great change but also great excitement. As we close for recess, I hope you use this time carefully to recharge. This indeed already looks set to be another momentous year for UJ – and I look forward to seeing all that lies ahead in the next semester and beyond. To watch my reflections on the first semester, check the video below. Take care.

Kea 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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