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Vice-Chancellor Message – 26 May 2023

Dear UJ Community,

Last week on this platform, I explained the importance of university rankings in providing unbiased and objective information about the quality of academic programmes and research impact. This was as I shared with you the latest university global rankings news, which showed that UJ is now ranked amongst the top 3.1% of universities worldwide, at position 628, according to the latest 2023 global ranking from the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), released on Monday, 15 May 2023.

UJ achieves historic top spot in SA rankings

More good news has come our way to ensure that we end Autumn, which is traditionally known as the season of harvest, with assurance and confidence about our University’s public standing. In a historic first, UJ is now the top producer of research outputs in South Africa, according to a report by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), released on 19 May 2023. This is an outstanding achievement, considering that 26 universities in the country produce research that advances knowledge with the potential to benefit humanity. Lest we forget, UJ was only formed as a comprehensive university out of a merger in 2005, and this achievement, therefore, comes from a university that is not yet 20 years old. To read more about this, click here.

I wish to thank our colleagues all around for their outstanding work and contribution to this achievement. I am proud of the immense dedication and performance of our staff, postdoctoral fellows, students, research associates, research divisions, centres and institutes. Special thanks to Prof Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Internationalisation, and his team for this outstanding achievement. We look forward to seeing even more outputs from our scholars in the near future.

Accolades for UJ at the SA Institute of Chartered Accounts (SAICA) Awards

It is with immense pride to announce that three of our colleagues in the Accountancy Department were among the winners at the prestigious 2023 SAICA Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards last night. The Awards recognise SAICA members and associates who are difference makers in various areas of business and society – those who have bridged the gap between being good and being excellent by making a valuable contribution in shaping communities, economies and society while applying the highest standards of ethics, integrity and accountability. Please join me in a virtual applause of the winners, who are:

  • Prof Amanda Dempsey, Senior Director of the UJ School of Accounting: Academia and Education category, which recognises individuals who have made a tangible impact on educating future members of SAICA.
  • Ms Nolwazi Mamorare, Chief Financial Officer: Finance Leader category, which acknowledges CFOs and leaders in finance who inspire and develop others to be great.
  • Prof Linda de Beer, Professor of Practice (UJ School of Accounting): Leadership and Governance category for promoting sound governance principles.

These achievements highlight UJ’s continued dedication to fostering excellence and driving positive change, congratulations to all the winners!

Representing UJ at the Daily Maverick conference

As you read this today, I will be attending a conference that is being hosted by the Daily Maverick, one of the leading news publications, in Cape Town, where I will be a panellist in one of the sessions. The conference, called Daily Maverick’s The Gathering, will “bring together some of the world’s leading scientists, economists, business leaders, policymakers and activists to discuss real solutions to the burgeoning energy, environmental and economic crisis facing South Africa”.

The session I will be participating in is titled Artificial Intelligence: Threats and Solutions to the Climate Crisis. We will share our insights into issues such as nanotechnologies, longer life spans, optimising energy systems and computing power and explore whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) will serve as a positive tool or have detrimental effects on our future. Speaking of this, I invite you to read my latest article in the Daily Maverick, titled AI can help save a planet in peril – we have the intelligent tools to meet the challenge. In it, I argue that tackling the climate crisis is urgent and that we need every instrument at our disposal, including artificial intelligence, to solve this menace.

New era for UJ communications  

Still on media matters, we will next week on Wednesday, 31 May 2023, launch one of the most exciting projects at our University. UJTV is a broadcast communications platform that has been developed by the University Relations Division in collaboration with the Department of Communication and Media, UJFM and ICS. It will provide educational and intellectually stimulating content to the university community and the broader public.

The ‘TV station’ will be housed on a digital platform, enabling people to watch content on their laptops and mobile devices from anywhere and anytime convenient. Although it will broadcast on a limited scale, it is hoped that the channel will in future take its place in the future among established satellite channels. I thank all the departments involved in developing this project, especially Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director: University Relations, and her team for initiating and leading this.

High Tea with the VC

Lastly, I wish to thank everyone who attended the High Tea with the VC book discussion last week on Friday, 19 May 2023, when we discussed the book Never Too Young to Lead: A Call for the Youth to Rise by Mr Lebogang Isaac Maile, Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements and Infrastructure Development. I was pleased to see so many of our students attending the event and asking thought-provoking questions. I also thank MEC Maile for gifting everyone in attendance with free copies of the book. You can watch it here:

Earlier on the same day, in another High Tea with the VC session, I had the honour and privilege of hosting legendary musician Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse. Mr. Mabuse is a musician extraordinaire and an anthropologist, human rights lawyer and activist. In 2018, our University conferred him with the Ellen Kuzwayo Award, for his outstanding contribution to African arts and culture. It was such a riveting conversation, and I got to know a lot about the depth of his knowledge and understanding of contemporary issues in our country and beyond. I urge you to listen to this fascinating conversation below.

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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