Develop strong, visionary leadership - Naledi Pandor

25 August 2008

Good wishes: "We're going to have a great time with you in the higher education sector," Minister of Education Naledi Pandor said of Dr Max Price.

It's a great honour to present a message of goodwill at this special event.

On behalf of the Department [of Education], I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr Max Price on his inauguration as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

Dr Price, you succeed Professor Njabulo Ndebele, who goes down in the history of this institution as a man of inventive intellect, sound courage and solid integrity. He is a hard act to follow. He succeeded Dr Mamphela Ramphele, and she succeeded Dr Stuart Saunders, both of whom were to begin the task of transforming UCT into an institution that is more conscious of the role it should and could play in a society undergoing rapid and deep structural change.

I am sure that you will be able to take this institution forward with the team you have inherited and the team you are about to recruit. The staff and students of UCT know that they are at one of the top universities in the world, an institution of great promise and impressive achievements.

UCT has been very successful in attracting and retaining top-class scholars. This university has more A-rated scientists than any other South African university. There are 72 A-rated scientists in South Africa at the moment and UCT has 36 of them. Moreover, UCT also has the most rated scientists (A, B, P, and L), 277 out of 1 500.

All of you are aware that government and the private sector are strengthening efforts directed at supporting research and innovation in higher education. We have to catch up with comparable leading emerging-market countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico). Our research is still confined to traditional niche areas, and we rely on a small core of internationally renowned scientists.

Universities require more intensive and extensive interventions. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the science institutions are doing more, and we are expanding the support we provide.

There are actions that universities can take, in association with government, to encourage scholars to join the staff of our universities.

We have been working at home and abroad with the African Diaspora initiative in an attempt to encourage African scholars to work with African institutions in expanding research and development. Working together with the DST and other departments, we are creating conditions for real partnerships.

We know how important Indian professionals have been in the US in directing research and capital flows back to India. Other countries that have been successful, such as Korea and Ireland, have developed sophisticated science and technology policies based on centres of excellence. We have copied these policies, adapting them to our needs.

Our immediate priority is to make conditions at home more conducive to better research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

In what must have been your first public written comment after your selection as Vice-Chancellor late last year, Dr Price, you pointed out that since 2005 there had been a "sea change" in the sector after many years of under-investment.

Since 2005, government has increased the higher education budget baseline by R8.4 billion.

You said that as a result of this sea change it was time "to innovate and think expansively".

Innovation and diversity are two sides of the same coin. UCT has shown a commitment to educating students from many different backgrounds, because UCT knows that unless it educates leaders from every section of our society it will have failed in its primary mandate to educate exceptional people who will serve all our communities.

UCT pioneered the alternative admissions system, and has a head start on other universities in understanding the benefits and the difficulties that diversity brings to the lecture hall and the student residence.

UCT has long recognised that the admission of a student cannot be based solely on merit. Excellence is essential, but it cannot be measured in matric grades alone.

Each one of us has immeasurable human qualities and capacities that universities have to recognise if innovation and diversity are to work for the good of all.

I am confident that, guided by the Constitution and our Higher Education Act, universities are best placed to set admissions policies and to manage selection processes. It is important that they do so in accountable and transparent ways, in ways that contribute to the equitable expansion of the opportunities that come with higher education.

Dr Price, I am sure that with your experience in higher education management, you will be able "to innovate and think expansively".

Your outstanding record and experience in the fields of public health, health policy, medical education and human resource planning, are invaluable to the sector.

Developing a strong, visionary leadership for the sector is one of the key components of higher education transformation. It is through strong, effective leadership and management that our institutions will develop and grow with respect to their missions.

I wish you well in this new and important role of leadership. Thank you.

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