UCT’s VC among Times Higher Education’s top leaders

21 December 2020 | From the Chair of Council

Dear members of the UCT community

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, has been recognised as one of the Times Higher Education’s (THE) 10 People of the Year. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that she is the only African among a prestigious group, including United States of America first lady-elect, Dr Jill Biden.

In acknowledging Phakeng, the THE was fulsome in their praise: “There is no doubt that higher education will need strong, transformational leadership as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, and few people embody this more than Phakeng. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) since 2018, she continued to speak out powerfully against inequality in South Africa and in academia globally over the past year…”.

On behalf of the UCT Council, I congratulate the VC for this well-deserved accolade and remain proud of her achievement. As one of the 10 higher education leaders globally on the list, this international accolade is testament to the calibre of leadership that UCT has.

The international honour means that, according to THE, Phakeng is among those “who mattered in higher education in 2020” and who shaped the debate in the past 12 months of what has been a really challenging year.

Not only is this recognition by the THE indicative of a world class vice-chancellor that UCT has in Phakeng, but it is also an indication of the quality of leadership at UCT. Coming in such a difficult year, during which the university leadership has had to work harder due to the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, makes this recognition particularly special. Leading UCT through this year took a great deal of teamwork and commitment.

We are, as Council, assured that Phakeng will continue showing the attributes and qualities that led to her receiving this international recognition by the THE as she leads her executive team at UCT.


Babalwa Ngonyama
Chair of UCT Council

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