Farr: looking back and ahead

22 July 2002
At the beginning of July both the Chair of Council, Tony Farr, and the Deputy Chair, Mary Burton, were re-elected to their respective positions for another term, ending in 2006. Monday Paper asked Mr Farr about the highlights of his past term of office and the future challenges.

MP: You have the benefit of a full term as Chair of Council under your belt. Does that make the task seems easier or is that wishful thinking?

TF: I believe that having been Chair for one term and with the experience that I've gained will assist me during my forthcoming term, but there will no doubt be issues that will not only test me, but Council as a whole. I am nevertheless confident that with the present Council we will be up to the challenges that UCT will face over the next three years.

MP: What were the highlights of your previous term as Chair?

TF: The highlights for me over the past three years have been: the appointment of Professor Ndebele as Vice-Chancellor and the seamless manner in which he took over the reins from Dr Ramphele; the continued improvement in the governance structures of the University and the increased acceptance thereof by all the stakeholders of UCT; and the assistance and co-operation I received, not only from all Council members but also from all the various constituencies of the University.

MP: And, following that, what were the biggest hurdles?

TF: There were no significant hurdles, but there were certainly a number of issues that required a lot of attention from Council, such as the implementation of the AIMS project. In addition, I am not satisfied that we have an adequate handle on a fair and just remuneration policy for all UCT staff. I do believe that progress has been made in this regard over the past six months.

MP: How do you see your role as Chair vis à vis the climate of change in higher education and what do you see as your biggest challenge in the next three years?

TF: There is no doubt that with the proposed changes to higher education there will be significant challenges that the Council will face in the next three years. My role will be to work with the University executive and Council to ensure that UCT continues to play a major role in higher education in South Africa and that we remain loyal to our Vision and Mission. We will have to be vigilant in ensuring that we continue to build on the past successes of UCT and at the same time adapt to the needs of the changing environment we are facing. It certainly promises to be an interesting and exciting three years.

MP: What do you regard as the most important part of your job?

TF: To ensure that the Council functions to the best of its ability.

MP: Has the Council's role changed since you were first elected Chair?

TF: I don't believe that the role of Council has changed.

MP: Give us a glimpse of your behind-the-scenes involvement required as Chair of Council.

TF: There are no standard behind-the-scenes activities that I get involved in. I liaise closely with the VC and discuss various matters with him and get involved in a number of committees that require my involvement. The relationship that I have with the VC is most important and it has been a pleasure working with Professor Ndebele and I certainly look forward to continuing our close working relationship over the next three years.

MP: In terms of the recently-formed African Union, is it still important for UCT to be "well positioned" in Africa as an institution/resource that the continent can draw on?

TF: I believe that UCT has a vital role to play in higher education in Africa and thus the formation of the African Union should encourage all at UCT to become involved in ensuring that we are recognised as an institution/resource that the continent can draw on.

MP: On a more personal level, what has been your biggest achievement?

TF: Having a loving family and being able to enjoy life's experiences with them.

MP: What do you do for relaxation?

TF: Play golf, watch sport and read.

MP: Your favourite holiday destination?

TF: Eastern Cape and Portugal.

MP: Person you most admire?

TF: Nelson Mandela.

MP: Lastly, two generations of Farrs have studied at UCT. With all the changes taking place in HE, will this institution still be an alma mater to be proud of in that great world they call a global village?

TF: UCT will certainly continue to be an alma mater that everybody who passes through can be justifiably proud of. We will continue to be relevant in the global village and I look forward to future generations of Farrs passing through its hallowed halls!

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