Vice-Chancellor Message – 24 March 2023

Dear UJ Community,

UJ has, in recent years, established itself among the fastest-growing universities in the world. For a relatively new institution, our steady rise in the rankings has been quite extraordinary. The results from multiple global rankings firmly support our upward trajectory. To this end, I am thrilled to announce that in the latest development showing our academic prowess and quality of teaching excellence, we are now ranked amongst the best universities globally in 13 subject areas.

Subject rankings

This is according to the 2023 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject, released on Wednesday, 22 March 2023. For this year’s rankings, the largest to date, more than 15,700 academic programmes from 1,594 institutions globally were considered. Academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper, the h-index of departments, and the international research network of departments were considered in determining the rankings.

Our top-performing subject field, Development Studies, is ranked among the top 100 universities globally and placed third (tied) in South Africa. Closely behind is Hospitality and Leisure Management, which remains ranked in the 101-150 band globally and placed second in the country. Four of UJ’s subjects have been ranked second among South African universities. These subjects are Hospitality and Leisure Management, Education and Training, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Chemistry. It is no wonder that these subjects are amongst the most sought-after qualifications in South Africa and continue to attract the ‘cream of the crop’ students nationally and internationally.

Two research fields also made their debut in the QS World University Rankings by Subject: Electrical & Electronic Engineering (401-450 band) and Biological Sciences (601-650 band). Additionally, nine other subjects ranked highly, reflecting the strength and breadth of the research and teaching at UJ. Click here to read more about these rankings.

As a university in the Global South, we are honoured and proud to be consistently recognised as one of the best destinations in the world to study and conduct research, particularly in these subjects. I thank everyone in the respective departments and faculties who have contributed to this achievement. I have no doubt that this very ethos will see our University soars to greater heights in various global rankings.

Autumn Graduations

Henry Ford famously once said, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”. This rings true for one of our graduates in the Autumn Graduation Ceremony, 80-year-old Robert Jeffrey, who graduated with a PhD in Engineering Management yesterday. Seeing him take to the stage in his wheelchair to receive his degree yesterday was deeply moving and a stark reminder that we should be continuously embarking on a learning journey. To read more about this extraordinary story, click here.

Our Autumn graduations continue to yield extraordinary graduates and stories worth celebrating. Modi Hlobo, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Accounting in the School of Accounting, is the first black person and staff member in the School of Accounting to obtain a PhD. It is not surprising that her fellow graduates and the academic procession gave her a standing ovation. Congratulations, Dr Hlobo!

Artificial Intelligence Institute of South Africa

As you read this, I will lead the UJ team at the second leg of the launch of the Artificial Intelligence Institute of South Africa (AIISA) at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). As you would recall, our University initially launched this initiative at our Johannesburg Business School in November last year. The Institute, which aims to facilitate our country to become a digital technology powerhouse on the continent and worldwide, is one of the outcomes of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PC4IR) and was launched in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. The Institute is yet another testament to our extraordinary advances in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) space, which has recently seen us launch various flagship projects.

Graduate employability

This week, colleagues from the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Centre for Entrepreneurship and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Ravi Naidoo, the CEO of the Youth Employment Service (YES), and his team. The meeting was to mark the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UJ and YES, which will focus on entrepreneurship and developing IT skills amongst the unemployed youth.

UJ and YES share a common interest in contributing to societal impact, and YES has committed to assisting the youth in securing employment, including through skills development programmes and learnerships. We look forward to implementing the MoU as it deals with many of the challenges our graduates face when applying for jobs, including employers’ demands for proven work experience for entry-level positions. I am confident that YES together with the UJ team will make an impact in this space and provide solutions for our burgeoning youth unemployment challenge.

High Tea with the VC

As Professor Tshilidzi Marwala is no longer at UJ, some of you might have wondered what will become of his monthly VC Reading Group sessions. I am pleased to announce that these sessions will continue under a new format and style. In keeping with my love of tea, these sessions will now be called High Tea With the VC. The first of the hybrid sessions will occur next Friday, 31 March, at 14:00 (CAT). Details regarding the venue will be communicated early next week.

To give you a glimpse into what High Tea with the VC entails, I recently hosted Mr Rudra Chatterjee, a special guest from India and a tea connoisseur. Mr Chatterjee is the Managing Director of Luxmi Tea Estates and the Chairman of Silverback Tea Company in Rwanda. Please click here to watch my conversation with Mr Chatterjee. I invite you to join me, over a cup of tea, as I embark on a series of discussions on a collection of inspirational books to increase our knowledge and address societal issues in the coming months.

Campus cleanliness and maintenance

Lastly, I remind you that a vital aspect of maintaining our University standards is keeping our campus grounds and facilities clean and well-maintained. I urge us all to play our part in this and encourage us to have a sense of responsibility towards our work and study spaces. If there are any areas that you have spotted that require maintenance attention on any of our campuses, you may report these to the Campus Maintenance Managers at the numbers below:

  • Auckland Park Bunting (APB) Campus: 011-559 1512
  • Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus: 011-559 3042/7238
  • Doornfontein Campus (DFC): 011-559 9046
  • Soweto Campus (SWC): 011-559 5030

For cleaning-related challenges, please report to the numbers below:

  • Auckland Park Bunting (APB) Campus: 011-559 1514
  • Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus: 011-559 3108
  • Doornfontein Campus (DFC): 011-559 6211
  • Soweto Campus (SWC): 011-559 5615

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

Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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


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