The year 2021 was yet another difficult year for us all, but I have been inspired by the response of the University of Cape Town (UCT) community and Council in their challenging task of keeping the academic ship moving forward. It has been heart-warming to see the many ways we used digital learning resources innovatively for this purpose, and to participate in efforts to help our most vulnerable students during this time.
Together as a community, we have committed to the Vision 2030 strategy to unleash human potential and to develop thinkers, leaders and individuals who will create ripples in their communities and on a global stage; who will provide a different set of solutions for the world’s challenges and, in so doing, create a better future for all. You have all made a major contribution to see this vision come to fruition and you should be commended for your commitment in creating the high standard this university continues to hold in higher education in Africa and the world.
As a business leader and a long-time Council member, I am keenly aware of how important both excellence and stability are to an institution such as UCT. The recent years have been full of various headwinds and disruptions for all of us. During these unprecedented and uncertain times, our focus on our vision has become more important than ever before. The headwinds and challenges we have experienced are a testament to our resilience.
In a crisis, flexibility is key. One of the first decisions made by Council in 2021 was to lift the student registration fee block for specific categories of students to allow them to continue their education. This put pressure on academic departments to rapidly register affected students for the new academic year. I want to acknowledge the support we received from deans and faculties who fully committed to ensuring that no eligible students were left behind in the academic programme.
A key objective of Vision 2030 is building a shared identity and common purpose across the university. When the executive team shared the plans with Council, we immediately recognised the potential to effect the tangible changes needed for our shared goal of massive transformation. Our university’s priorities include attracting, supporting and retaining talented undergraduate students from all walks of life; achieving equity in staff appointments and career progression; and engaged scholarship that contributes to the challenges of our times. Council-endorsed Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng’s implementation framework is an exciting blueprint for achieving these goals.
To help shape a new institutional culture that encourages individual growth as well as the advancement of the university, Council approved three important policies:
The intention underlying these policies is to create a more comfortable and safer space for all UCT students and staff.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in the midst of the grief over the lives that were lost and the hardships that were experienced by staff and students, my fellow Council members and I have been consistently humbled by the commitment and fortitude shown by the members of our university community. One of UCT’s responses as an institution was to make space available for the public health sector to administer vaccinations on campus. This was achieved through the opening of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre.
You have all played a part in keeping UCT on an upward trajectory through these events. Through your hard work and creative thinking, we have maintained our place as a leading university in Africa, and one of the best globally. As we build this incredible institution, let excellence not be our only objective, but rather excellence to drive global impact.
Through every change, your steady hand has helped to keep the university performing at its best and to be a pacesetter in global standards of education, excellence, sustainability and inclusivity.
Council recognises all of the efforts that have been made under the challenging circumstances of 2021. It has been a privilege to walk this journey with the UCT community for another year.
Chair of Council
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