As the 2008 UCT academic year starts and classes officially open their doors, I am delighted to welcome new and returning students.
A community of nearly thirty thousand students and staff begin another annual academic journey involving the teaching, research and social outreach which is the lifeblood of our existence. This is seasonal activity that has been going on for more than 175 years.
We are justifiably proud of our historic record, and are continuously dedicated to improving it. I welcome all newcomers to the UCT community, confident that they, too, in various ways, will contribute their enormous talents and diverse experiences to our university.
The university has, of course, never been completely at rest. It never really is. Since late last year, faculties have been preparing for their annual intake of new and returning students. While many of us enjoyed the holiday season, there were many colleagues at work - ensuring that all is done to make the intake of the 2008 students as smooth as possible. In addition, the ever popular Summer School was run, and many researchers used the summer teaching break to pursue research activities.
I thank all members of the UCT community who were involved in the work leading up to the registration. This year in particular the processes ran smoother than before and I congratulate all involved. UCT depends on such outstanding contributions of staff to maintain and forever build on its traditions of excellence.
As most of you know, I am now in the final stretch of my tenure at UCT. I leave on 30 June 2008 and Dr Max Price will begin his time as Vice-Chancellor of UCT on 1 July 2008. I am working directly with him to ensure an efficient operational changeover. Interacting with him in this regard, and meeting his family, have been a pleasure.
Our transition plan is steering our actions as we go through these last six months and into the first six under Dr Price's leadership.
This includes securing a strong executive office throughout the next 12 months, taking full cognisance of the impact of the executive changes in my office which will take place in the coming months, namely the retirement of Prof Martin West, Prof Martin Hall's move to the Graduate School of Business, and the recent resignation of Prof Cheryl de la Rey.
A proposal for the interim arrangements to deal with these changes has been developed and will be considered by Council in early March.
The proposal has as its aim the smooth and stable transition, but also to place the new Vice-Chancellor in the strongest possible position to recruit and develop his new executive team.
I will communicate the final plan to you as soon as consultation has been concluded.
As we begin a new academic year, all of us must be fully aware of the larger changes taking place nationally, continentally and globally. In particular, we are experiencing leadership changes nationally. We are called upon to be responsive to the imperative of greater conservation of energy. We face the challenge to improve our national system of education in its entirety. We desire peace, security, and stability in Africa to ensure sustained development. Crucially, we need to respond to the call for more effective governance of world affairs. These and many other challenges will impact on us in some ways in the coming months. They call on us to be citizens with critical awareness - more so on a university campus. The world needs its universities more than ever. This presents UCT with enormous opportunities.
All in all, it is a situation that brings with it immense possibilities for intellectual invigoration, renewed energy and an enjoyable and productive year.
Indeed, the miracle of universities is that as we all come and go as individuals, they seem to grow more strongly. Every new year makes us aware of the privilege of this marvel.
Professor Njabulo S Ndebele
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
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