Vice-Chancellor’s introduction

30 October 2023 Read time 4 min.
VC interim, Emer Prof Daya Reddy <b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna.
VC interim, Emer Prof Daya Reddy Photo Lerato Maduna.

Visitors to the University of Cape Town (UCT) talk about the physical beauty of our campus, our location on the slopes of Table Mountain, the magnificent buildings and our world-class facilities. But the true beauty of UCT can be summed up in just two words: our people.

Without the commitment, resilience and ingenuity of my colleagues across UCT – in the faculties and lecture halls, in the laboratories and in the research field, as well as the professional and support staff who keep our daily operations going – UCT would be an empty shell.

These amazing individuals and teams are directly responsible for every achievement UCT made in 2022, which you can read about in this publication. The year 2022, like so many previous years, presented many obstacles, but UCT staff members found ways around or through all of them. No leader could ask for a better team. Through 2022 the team was under the leadership of Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, the former vice-chancellor, who also shares in the accomplishments of the year under review.

Even before the academic year began in February, UCT was making a global impact in 2022. UCT Summer School in January drew students from 22 countries, including other African countries. Almost half of these students were attending for the first time. UCT also livestreamed the programme for free to 200 participants at the UCT Graduate School of Business Philippi Hub Solution Space. This meant that UCT Summer School reached a more diverse audience as part of our commitment to community engagement.

We launched our 2022 academic year with lots of happy noise in February, as we registered our first-year students in person for the first time since the pandemic began. All UCT campuses were abuzz with activity again for the first time in nearly two years. While COVID-19 regulations were relaxed and we returned to face-to-face teaching and learning, we continued to be vigilant as the health and safety of students and staff remained our top priority.

Students and staff members alike have embraced Vision 2030, UCT’s strategic plan for helping to lead the country and our continent into the future, taking account of digital technology, environmental sustainability and the need to address critical social issues. The underlying mission of Vision 2030 is to unleash human potential to achieve a just and fair society.

As we consider where we want to be in 2030, we are taking stock of where we are now by reviewing our student profile, the student experience, the postgraduate research environment and the enabling environment for learning, teaching and conducting research, including curriculum issues and our use of blended and online learning to deliver better teaching and learning. A very exciting innovation is our introduction of Amathuba, UCT’s new digital learning platform that will enhance students’ learning experience and equip them to create course content themselves, including audio and video presentations.

We officially launched the Hasso Plattner Foundation-funded building in October – the first design thinking school in Africa. The UCT d-school offers the Foundation Programme for Design Thinking, a postgraduate course that opens the world of design thinking to students in all fields of learning.

Entrepreneurship remains a strong focus at UCT, not only because it helps to create new businesses with the possibility of increasing employment, but especially because it offers a way for our students to apply what they are learning in class to the problems they identify in their communities. Three UCT student entrepreneurs excelled in the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition final in November 2022. Matimba Mabonda won the Innovative Business Ideas category; Asonele Gevenga the Existing Business (Tech) category and Nicoline Kriek the Existing Business (General) category – each one of them was awarded R20 000. Furthermore, Matimba Mabonda was named overall winner of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity and EDHE Studentpreneur of 2022 and walked away with R120 000 to inject into his business, where he manufactures bricks from waste plastic.

At the same event, UCT was announced Entrepreneur University of The Year for the third time.

We have also continued to focus on advancing social justice, with a conversation series focusing on anti-racism through scholarly debate. In 2022, 300 staff and more than 900 students participated in a Critical Diversity Programme, covering Anti-Racism Policy Education and Unconscious Bias. This training was organised by UCT’s Office of Inclusivity & Change, which also offers educational interventions to address gender-based violence, including a six-week “Becoming Men” pilot programme.

UCT Research is focusing on collaborative projects to tackle grand challenges of our times and environment, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To increase our delivery on the SDGs, the Carnegie Foundation has funded the next round of our Carnegie “Developing Emerging Academic Leaders” programme, hosted by the Institute for Humanities in Africa to the value of US$2.75 million. 

UCT is proud to have 135 researchers on the University of Stanford’s 2022 published list of the Top 2% of Scientists in the World, rated on citations of their life’s publications. Among these, 13 UCT staff are positioned in the top 100 in their field.

One of the highest accolades that an academic staff member can receive is induction to the UCT College of Fellows. In 2022 we celebrated five new inductions: Professor Nicholas Biekpe (UCT Graduate School of Business); Professor Anthony Figaji (Neurosurgery, Faculty of Health Sciences): Professor Ernesta Meintjes (Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences); and Professor Sharon Prince (Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences). 

The five College of Fellows Young Researcher Awardees for 2022 are: Dr Faisal Garba Muhammed (Sociology, Faculty of Humanities), Dr Katye Altieri (Oceanography, Faculty of Science), Dr Liza Cirolia (School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment), Dr Jeffrey Murray (School of Languages & Literature, Faculty of Humanities) and Dr Tshepo Mosaka (Public Law, Faculty of Law).

Of course, graduation is a highlight of the academic calendar. We are proud of the 6 795 students who qualified for graduation in 2022, including the 263 who qualified for doctoral degrees. UCT graduates remain among the world’s most employable, according to the 2022 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Graduate Employability Rankings – the second consecutive time that UCT has placed within the top 100. UCT places 95th among 550 institutions.

Accomplishments such as these demonstrate what high academic standards, combined with a fervent commitment to advancing social welfare, can accomplish. The rest of this report expands on the work of the university and the amazing people who make up the UCT community.

Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy
Vice-Chancellor (interim)

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