As the sun prepared to set on Table Bay Harbour on a nippy winter evening, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business (GSB) was a hive of activity, as heads of the institution’s academic departments gathered in the spirit of thanksgiving – in recognition of their tenacity, perseverance and extraordinary work ethic.
Hosted by Vice-Chancellor (VC) interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy, the academic heads of department (HoDs) dinner was held on Tuesday, 1 August, at the UCT GSB Conference Centre in the V&A Waterfront, and brought together HoDs of UCT’s faculties under one roof for an evening of breaking bread and hearty conversations.
“One advantage of sitting in the VC’s office is the bird’s-eye view I have of what is happening across the university. From this perspective, what I can say at the outset is that there is a degree of commitment, which I’m not surprised about, but which is so reassuring. And I’m very optimistic about where we are going, and I’m pleased and gratified to see the pure commitment of our HoDs and colleagues in the departments,” Emeritus Professor Reddy said.
Helping the university grow
Reddy said HoDs have steered UCT through tough times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the 2021 Table Mountain fire. Their work has helped the institution grow, respond to these challenges effectively and maintain that much-needed balance that continues to allow the academic project to thrive and uphold its excellent standards.
“I have developed a strong belief in the capacity of my colleagues to give their best to the university, with regard to our core activities [teaching and learning, and research]. And in doing so, to make a positive contribution to our students, to global knowledge and to the people whose lives will be affected by what we learn and teach and what we convey,” he said.
“I am proud to stand here tonight and to declare that my belief in UCT’s academic community has not been shaken. This is directly attributable to your leadership as HoDs.”
A leading university
Reddy reiterated that UCT remains Africa’s top university with a list of impressive achievements and accolades under its belt – a near impossible task without the hard work and dedication displayed by colleagues in the room.
“The accomplishments that are transforming UCT, your work and your influence will certainly help us to achieve a future that will be one [where] our successors and those who come after us will continue to be proud of”.
He took a moment to highlight some of the university triumphs. These, he said, include ranking 173 in the 2024 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings – up 64 places compared to 2023 and confirming UCT’s spot as the top university on the continent. In July, the university capped 104 PhD graduates, and in June, 21 students and alumni featured on the Mail & Guardian’s List of 200 Young South Africans.
These accomplishments, he added, have earned UCT high praise and are the results of good management, commitment, and leadership inspired by HoDs and other colleagues at department level.
But HoDs have also achieved other milestones that don’t make local and international headlines yet impact the lives of both their colleagues and students in meaningful ways. In doing so, they have also displayed a level of compassion, courage, resilience and commitment as they work together to build the UCT of the future – a stronger university for years to come.
“The accomplishments that are transforming UCT, your work and your influence will certainly help us to achieve a future that will be one [where] our successors and those who come after us will continue to be proud of,” he said.
“To UCT’s [academic] HoDs: to the success that lies behind you and the success that lies ahead. And for your strength, wisdom and commitment, all of which you bring to the university and to scholarship. Thank you!”
The HoD dinner precedes the annual HoD workshop, which takes place at the UCT GSB on Wednesday, 2 August.
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