Honorary doctorate for international social welfare scholar

03 December 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

It gives me great pleasure to officially announce that the University of Cape Town (UCT) will confer an honorary doctorate upon Professor James Midgley, a UCT alumnus, at our virtual graduation ceremony on 15 December at 18:00.

As previously communicated, UCT has decided to celebrate graduation virtually due to the risks associated with many people gathering in one place and thereby increasing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. This risk has become even more heightened in the Western Cape, in particular, over the past few days. Although UCT is not able to host physical graduation ceremonies as usual this does not mean that our students cannot celebrate with those closest to them wherever they may be.

On 14 December, we will have our virtual graduation celebratory event for the March graduates, followed a day later by a virtual ceremony for the December graduands. At the ceremony on 15 December, we will confer upon Professor Midgley the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa).

The other two distinguished individuals who were supposed to receive honorary doctorates in December have decided to defer their awards to 2021.

Professor Midgley started his academic career at UCT (1966-1972) in the Department of Sociology and Social Administration. In 1972 he was invited to lead a new international social policy and development programme at the London School of Economics. Over the next decade, he travelled extensively across the developing world and published some of his most seminal works on issues of social development, social policy, social work and international social welfare.

He has published 110 journal articles in peer reviewed journals, 13 single-authored books and 28 edited co-authored books. He has also authored more than 107 chapters in edited collections. He has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals, is frequently invited to deliver the keynote address at major conferences and has given several named lectures. He is also frequently invited to lecture at universities around the world. His work has been recognised through many academic and professional awards.

Over the course of his illustrious career, he has served as professor and dean of social work and associate vice-chancellor for research at Louisiana State University and as the Harry and Riva Specht professor of public social services and dean of the School of Social Welfare, University of California (UC), Berkeley. Since his retirement in 2016, he has been a professor of the Graduate School at UC/Berkeley.

Professor Midgley has maintained his African ties over the past 20 years through active collaboration with South African and African scholars, and since 2008 as an honorary professor at the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg. He continues to collaborate actively with scholars at other South African universities such as the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch University.

Professor Midgley has produced an expansive and substantive body of work on social development that is not only relevant to the Global South, but also to international social development. His work will continue to shape social welfare thinking, policy and practice for years to come. He is a distinguished and leading international scholar with deep connections to UCT and is a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate at this university.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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