Dear colleagues and students, alumni and parents, donors and stakeholders
Today is my last day as Vice-Chancellor, and I write to say thank you and to bid you well under the capable leadership of Professor Phakeng.
I leave with a mixture of feelings and memories. The job of Vice-Chancellor is humbling and testing; the learning curve is steep. Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes over the years. But I leave feeling confident in the prowess of our great university, and enormously grateful for the support, wisdom and stature of all my colleagues who have worked with me to that end.
The past decade has seen significant growth in student numbers and infrastructure, and especially growth in postgraduates and postdocs. Thanks to the dedication and expertise of our academic staff, we have seen continuous growth in our research output, impact and innovation. This, coupled with a proliferation of international research partnerships, has boosted the university’s global presence and ranking.
We have tried to hear our students’ myriad concerns, challenges and needs, paying more attention to the student experience, to improving teaching, and to improving success rates.
Concerned to improve our social responsiveness, we have strengthened connections to the communities in our immediate vicinity. Student organisations with impressive records of social engagement, as well as socially engaged researchers and staff, have enabled UCT to remain a university intent on addressing some of the most pressing challenges of our times.
We are a substantially more transformed institution today than we were 10 years ago, partly in response to legitimate student pressure to increase the pace of change over the last few years. But we still have a way to go, and the frameworks and institutions to continue the institution’s transformation are hopefully now in place.
As you all know, the university has also had to weather a period of stress – particularly the years from 2015 to 2017 – and as a community we have experienced some traumatic and divisive events. Staff and students have had to face the challenges of these years, which were part of a national movement affecting almost all university campuses. I have been struck by the courage, integrity and stamina of those who have kept the university intact, notwithstanding the efforts of protestors to shut us down. Thank you all for your ongoing commitment to keeping all the wheels turning in our complex institution. While I believe that we have steered through the storms and have found a safe harbour, we – critically – have some healing to do before we can really feel like one cohesive community again.
It is very comforting to be passing the baton to Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who I feel confident will be a leader befitting this great institution. I wish her and the university every success, and I have no doubt that UCT will advance further under her leadership.
I want to thank each of you one last time for what you have contributed to the continuing success of UCT and for supporting the leadership team and me personally. I have been overwhelmed by the messages of goodwill and appreciation that have come in as I have prepared to take my departure.
Let me thank all of you who took the trouble to write or record messages. I feel humbled and recognise all the more what a rare privilege I have been given to be Vice-Chancellor during this watershed period for higher education and for UCT.
Dr Max Price
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