Dear colleagues and students
I write to you at the end of a successful first term of the 2019 academic year. We are currently celebrating autumn graduation, which is filled with stories of incredible inspiration, determination and outstanding academic achievements. We have been sharing in the joy and elation of our graduands’ peers and families since 10 April and will continue doing so until 18 April when we host the 14th and final ceremony of the season.
I recently engaged with UCT’s academic heads of departments (HoDs) at their annual dinner and workshop. It was an opportunity for these leaders to take stock of developments at the university and to review their goals and aspirations. Our aim is to build continuity at these annual workshops in order to create meaningful momentum around the issues that are important to them. The university leadership has prioritised the support of our academic departments to ensure the ongoing success of the academic project. There are also plans to roll out a formal support programme for HoDs and deans.
The Institutional Review: 2008–2018 was recently completed and reflects on the progress that UCT has made over the past decade. One aspect of this progress is reflected in the final report released by the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC). Different constituencies are currently engaging with the report and exploring how the different recommendations will be taken forward. At the UCT Council meeting of 30 March, the Transformation Report 2018 was adopted as a record of the university’s transformation activities for 2018. The transformation project is central to the strategic plan of the university. We have committed ourselves to being an African university and this should show in how we relate with one another, the communities around us and with our environment.
Since the start of the year I have been visiting UCT residences to connect and interact with students. This initiative is largely intended to reshape the relationship between the university leadership and our students. I enjoyed dinner and discussions with the students at Kopano, and I visited Liesbeeck Gardens where the subwardens showed me around. We even popped into a student’s room, unannounced. She was so happy to see us and then she let us in – I was mightily impressed.
In February I got a chance to enjoy a bit of rugby together with my “entourage” – students who won VIP tickets to the UCT Ikey Tigers’ games. FNB UCT kicked off the 2019 Varsity Cup season with a nail-biting 32–24 victory over Cape rivals FNB UWC (University of the Western Cape) on the Green Mile.
We were delighted by the return of the UCT researchers aboard the SA Agulhas II after two months in Antarctica as part of the international Weddell Sea Expedition. The researchers set out to survey the underside of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, document the marine wildlife of the Weddell Sea ecosystem and find the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, which sank there in 1915.
Like the rest of the country, UCT has been grappling with the effects of load-shedding. We’ve put measures in place to ensure that minimal teaching and learning time is lost and that the impact on university operations is kept to a minimum.
Load-shedding is just one of the many national issues that influence us here at UCT, and I would like to encourage all UCT staff and students to make their mark when the country goes to the polls on 8 May 2019.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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