Honorary doctorates set the tone for June grad

14 June 2004

Exams are done and marks turned in; only the stalwarts, it seems, remain on campus, lulled perhaps by ample parking and hushed laboratories and lecture theatres. But in the realms of Bremner and other locales, there is more fevered activity. On Friday, June 18, 1 265 students will take their places in the stately Jameson Hall for the university's mid-year graduation ceremonies.

The occasion also honours three leading South Africans who will receive honorary doctorates: Constitutional Court Judge Kate O'Regan; former deputy chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Dr Alex Boraine; and future-scenarios planner Clem Sunter.

O'Regan will receive an honorary doctorate in law (LLD), Boraine in social science (DSocSc), and Sunter in economic science (DEconSc).

O'Regan is a graduate of UCT, having obtained her LLB cum laude in 1980. She also has an LLM from the University of Sydney and a PhD from the London School of Economics, awarded in 1988.

The judge's academic career saw her excel as a scholar and researcher, particularly in the areas of labour law and gender. She is highly regarded locally and internationally for her judgements, which are valued for their "insight, clarity and thoughtfulness".

She is currently an honorary professor in the law faculty at UCT. She is also one of only two women on the bench of the country's highest court.

Boraine is being honoured for his long career in South African public life where he has made a valuable contribution. He has also enjoyed a close relationship with UCT, having served on Council and contributing to teaching programmes.

Ordained as a Methodist minister in 1956, Boraine has a BA from Rhodes University, an MA from Oxford University, and a PhD in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies from Drew University Graduate School in the United States.

He was a Member of Parliament from 1974, when he won his first seat for the Progressive Party by 34 votes, until 1986 when he resigned. He founded the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) with Dr Frederick van Zyl Slabbert and later set up a new NGO called Justice in Transition. This led to the establishment of the TRC where he was appointed deputy chair by former president Nelson Mandela.

Boraine is currently based in New York where he is president of the International Centre for Transitional Justice.

The Suffolk-born Sunter, now a naturalised South African, is renowned for his work as a future-scenario planner. Sunter studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford before joining Charter Consolidated as a management trainee in 1966.

In 1971 he moved to Lusaka in Zambia to work for Anglo American Corporation Central Africa, later moving to Johannesburg. He is currently chair of the Anglo American Chairman's Fund.

Grad stats

Sharing the limelight with the trio will be a record crop of mid-year graduands, 208 more than were capped at the same time last year. The figure of 1 265 is also well up on the figures for 2002 (923) and 2001 (880).

Fewer postgraduate degrees will be awarded at this year's June ceremonies: 551, compared with 664 last year.

At the 10h00 ceremony, devoted entirely to the commerce faculty, degrees and diplomas will be awarded to 620 students, while at the 14h30 ceremony degrees and diplomas will be awarded to 107 students from law, 120 from science, 85 from engineering and the built environment, 79 from health sciences, and 254 from humanities.

Academic highlights

The ceremonies also mark other academic highlights, including the first crop of students to graduate with master's degrees in transportation studies.

Lindiwe Molai and Faisel Moosa will walk away with valuable knowledge and skills to tackle the challenges of creating affordable, efficient, sustainable, safe and environmentally sound urban transport systems.

Started in July 2002, the interdepartmental postgraduate programme aims to prepare students to contribute to the implementation of demanding transportation policy directives.

According to civil engineering senior lecturer Marianne Vanderschuren, policy changes have necessitated the development of new, and in some instances, different competencies in the field of transport system planning and management.

"The transport sector is in need of professionals who are able to respond to these policy regulations, which are necessary if we are to prioritise and improve public transport in South Africa.

"The transport studies programme specifically focuses on the planning and management of urban passenger transport systems. This ensures that our graduates are capable of making valuable contributions in this area."

As one of the top students in all her courses, Molai hopes to further her studies by undertaking a PhD.

The mid-year graduation also saw a healthy crop of master's students from the information systems department: Lowell Charles, Hilary Speight (with distinction), Jonathan Trusler, Russel Webber (with distinction) and Michael Pollock.

HOD Professor Derek Smith said the department had produced about 20 master's graduates in the past 20 years, mainly because graduates in the field were snapped up by commerce and industry.

"To have five at the same time is an unusual occurrence, mainly because historically students don't really need anything beyond an honours degree to secure themselves a really good career in information systems."

However, the industry's growth had tapered off over the past two years, presenting fewer opportunities. "This could also mean that students are trying to differentiate by completing higher degrees," Smith said.

UCT Book Award

It is also tradition at the June graduation ceremony to present the annual UCT Book Award. This year the honour went to a dense, 2 650-page, three-volume work, Commentary on the Companies Act, co-authored by UCT's Professors Geoff Everingham (accountancy), the late Mike Blackman and Richard Jooste (both commercial law) and published in 2002. It was Blackman's second such honour. He won a UCT Book Award in 1998 for his book Companies (in Law of South Africa, first re-issue, Volume 4, parts 1, 2 and 3).

In his citation, dean of law Professor Hugh Corder alluded to the significance of the work in the legal field. "With the effects of globalisation and the increasing power of transnational corporations, the legal systems of the world are under great pressure to ensure a degree of fairness, responsibility and openness in the governance of their affairs. South African corporation law is well in line with modern developments in the leading legal systems of the world."

He continued: "It is evident in the breadth, literary quality, comprehensiveness and incisiveness of this work, which sets it apart as something truly extraordinary. It is clear that this book has rapidly taken its place as the primary reference work for both the advanced study and the high-level practice of company law in South Africa and that it is the boldly critical and usefully comparative approach, which infuses the whole work, which adds immensely to its stature."

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.