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Rector's End of Year Message

Rector's End of Year Message.

(Published - 12 December 2018)

Rector and Vice-Chancellor - End of Year Message

Dear students, academics and staff

 Thank you for helping to make 2018 a momentous year for the University of the Western Cape (UWC). You have all contributed to making significant strides in UWC’s trajectory of fulfilling its 2030 vision of providing “a vibrant intellectual space where people engage with matters of real significance at the highest levels of competence”.

The year began with the successful orientation of new first year students and the April graduation ceremonies. By the end of this week we will have much more to celebrate as 4 762 students will have graduated this year – 114 with PhDs, 377 with Masters, 640 with Honours, 2 855 with Bachelors, 447 with Diplomas and 329 with Certificates. Congratulations to all who have achieved success.

The election of the new Student Representative Council (SRC) – with Ms Simthandile Tyhali as president - and the Central House Committee (CHC) on 9 and 10 October 2018 epitomised the maturity with which the student body and leaders contested the polls. We wish Ms Tyhali and her colleagues well and look forward to working with them to maintain a healthy relationship with student leaders.

Learning and Teaching

In the area of Learning and Teaching, the LLB degree, having been part of the national review by the Council of Higher Education and accredited with conditions in 2017, received full accreditation on 14 June 2018. We are indebted to the staff who worked tirelessly under the supervision of the DVC: Academic, Prof Vivienne Lawack, to achieve the full accreditation, which will aid UWC to continue attracting the best law students.

Substantial progress was made in the Economic and Management Sciences with the BCom Accounting and Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting being rated a 1 by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). Additionally, BCom Financial Accounting in the Department of Accounting was fully accredited with the SA Institute of Professional Accountants.

The University has identified a range of programmes across different disciplines that will address the needs of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The programmes – which include qualifications for Immersive Technology specialising in Augmented and Virtual Reality, for example – will equip a new breed of graduates to fulfill scarce and niche skills in a range of industries. In July, UWC launched its first exclusively online Management Programme as part of a broader strategy to exploit the digital space and to meet the demand for flexibility in studying.

Prof Lawack concluded her trailblazing Courageous Conversations series with Alumni this year. The conversations, that travelled to cities around the country, had Alumni engaging in the cultural identity of UWC, and tackling the de-colonisation of the curriculum and the transformation of the higher education sector. The input will form part of a process of developing an inclusive, de-colonised curriculum.

Research and Innovation 

In the space of Research and Innovation, under the able leadership of the DVC: Research and Innovation, Prof Jose Frantz, UWC has grown by four new SARChi Chairs this year, in: Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants; Social Cohesion and the Family; Waste and Society, and the Desmond Tutu Research Chair in Religion and Social Justice. Significantly, the Chairs have all been awarded to female academics – Professors Priscilla Baker, Nicolette Roman, Rinie Schenck and Sarojini Nadar.

Over a decade, UWC has grown its share of SARChi Chairs from just one in 2008 to 18 in 2018 - an achievement that should act as a great source of encouragement.

At the same time, the Department of Physics and Astronomy continued to lead SA’s way to the stars. Not only did Prof Roy Maartens retain his NRF A-rating as a scientist this year for his work on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, but Siyambonga Matshawule, a Next Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) lecturer and PhD student, was a co-author on the first research paper to emerge from the first phase of the SKA. And worldwide the University was ranked at 162 in the world for astrophysics in the 2018 Universal Ranking by Academic Performance.

There were many other research highlights for 2018. The Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Prof Michael Davies-Coleman, was elected to the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, a body composed of the country’s most outstanding scholars. At the same time, Dr Fanelwa Ngece-Ajayi was elected to the South African Young Academy of Sciences, ASSAf’s younger sibling for up-and-coming talent. Dr Ngece Ajayi was also selected as one of SA’s #Inspiring Fifty, an initiative aimed at shining a spotlight on leading and inspirational women working in the technology sector - women who change the world with their STEM skills, and serve as role models for other women in the industry. Also selected: MSc Astrophysics Student and Commercialisation Young Professional Palesa Nombula: and UWC Alumna Dr Imogen Wright, Chief Technology Officer at Hyrax Biosciences.

The Department of Chemistry’s Prof Leslie Petrik received the prestigious NTF-Water Research Commission Award for her work towards achieving sustainable water management, knowledge generation and solutions. Prof Zannie Brock from the Linguistics Department received a National Excellence in Teaching Commendation in September from the Council on Higher Education/Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa.

PhD student Shireen Mentor was one of five top young physicists from South Africa to attend the 68th Nobel Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, joining 600 of the world’s brightest minds, including Nobel Prize-winning scientists, to share their ideas on physiology and medicine. UWC has had 7 attendees in as many years.

And just last week the University also received welcome news from the National Research Foundation (NRF) that Prof Emmanuel Iwuoha has been awarded with an A-rating. Prof Iwuoha is also the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) Chair for NanoElectrochemistry and Sensor Technology, incidentally. My congratulations to Prof Iwuoha for this incredible achievement.

Student Experience and Achievements

The year has not been without challenges. There are still a number of issues with NSFAS grants to students. We are pursuing this matter with NSFAS and will continue to do so until all the outstanding issues are addressed. This category of students is being assisted through the University’s nutrition project while the enquiries are ongoing. At the same time the University worked hard to accommodate the first cohort of first year students who qualified for free tuition following former President Jacob Zuma’s announcement late last year of the new fee structure. UWC has a proud record of providing equitable access and will continue its legacy of assisting generations of economically challenged students to gain entry to higher education.

We have also mourned the passing of giants who have long been associated with the University. They include: Dr Zola Skweyiya, Brenda Leibowitrz, Shakier Robert, "Pa" Peter Neethling, Prof Yusuf Da Costa (Education Faculty), Prof Phil Robinson (Theology),

Donovan Alexander (Financial Accounting lecturer), Prof Jan Persens, Prof Michael Wessels, Prof Stanley Ridge, Prof Peter Eagles, Aubrey Snell and Dr K de Villiers.

The University recently grieved the passing of three of our students: Nandile Qwemesha,  Emmanuel Ndumndum and Monde Montwana. It was a profoundly sad time for UWC. We are living in a time when there is enormous pressure on all of us, especially young people. The University has a broad range of well-established student support initiatives and interventions, driven by DVC: Student Development and Support, Prof Pamela Dube. It has also put in place developmental programmes as part of a holistic student experience, which is one of the institutional goals since 2010. In addition to the psychological and counselling services, there are first-year experience programmes, peer mentoring programmes, support systems at residences as well as various academic support initiatives.

This is a time for us as a university community to pause and reflect on the realities of the pressures and traumas that we face, as well as look at ways in which our support systems can be enhanced.

On the sporting fields, UWC athletes and administrators continued to excel. Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, has been appointed by University Sports South Africa (USSA) as the head of Team South Africa for the 2019 World Student Games. The games will take place in Napoli, Italy from 3 to 14 July 2019.

Gagayi and his administrative team’s leadership has produced star athletes across codes on the international stage. The latest achievement is the call-up of UWC and Cape Cobras cricketer, Zubayr Hamza, to the South Africa Test team for the upcoming home series against Pakistan. The excellent performance of the women’s football team saw it included as one of 12 teams that will participate in the inaugural 2019 Women’s National League.

The achievement of our own Thembi Kgatlana – who now plays for the professional US team Houston Dash – as the player of the tournament in the African Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana is a testament to our coaches. She scored five goals in a campaign that saw Banyana Banyana finish as runners-up.

We look forward to UWC Rugby’s participation in the Varsity Cup from February next year. It is a significant moment in South African rugby because UWC is the first historically disadvantaged institution set to play in the premier university tournament in the country. We are immensely proud of Head Coach Chester Williams, his assistant coaches, support staff and his entire team.

Further mention must be made of the achievements of rugby players Lyle Hendricks and Babalwa Latsha. Hendricks is the first UWC player to be included in the national Under 21 Squad, known as the Baby Boks, that was narrowly defeated by England in the semifinals of the Under 21 Rugby World Cup in France. Latsha represented SA at the Sevens World Cup as well as the Springboks senior women’s team for the end of year tour to the UK.

On the track, Luke Davids did UWC proud with his incredible gold medal triumph at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in October – winning the 100m race in 10.15 seconds.

The UWC Creative Arts Choir won the Mixed Choir category at the World Choir Championship in July - where more than 300 choirs from 59 countries participated - under the able guidance of Coordinator for Community Engagement and Cultural Life at UWC, Sibusiso Njeza.

UWC was also named Africa’s Greenest Campus for the third time and the University continues to look at ways to contribute to an environmentally sustainable world.

Work continues towards the establishment of UWC’s student driven Media Society to create newspaper, radio and TV platforms for students. A board of directors, including media professionals and strategists, has been appointed.

An updated Sexual Violence Policy, adopted by Council in June, was formally implemented on 1 July as a key component of UWC’s attempts to ensure the safety and protection of our campus community.

New appointments

We were pleased to announce the appointment of Meko Magida as Executive Director of Human Resources from 1 September 2018. Prof Jacques de Ville officially started his position as Dean of the Faculty of Law on 1 August 2018, after acting in the position since the end of last 2017. The University undertook a Culture Survey in 2014 that resulted in a number of initiatives such as the Academic Achievers’ Awards, the Registrar’s Rewards and Recognition event, the Programme for Academic and Professional Leaders, as well as leadership programmes at all levels The Culture Survey 2018 is in the process of being completed and HR will facilitate feedback sessions, that are being analysed by an external service provider, as soon as the results are available.

Standing and profile

The appointment of key managers in the Media, Marketing and Communications office in June, located in Institutional Advance, has gone a long way towards stability while enhancing UWC’s stature with both internal and external stakeholders. Notable events at the University that received positive media coverage included: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s Development Trust Annual Lecture on Leadership and Ethics by former minister Trevor Manuel; former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s donation of a third of the fees he earned for arbitrating the Life Esidimeni tragedy; the 40th anniversary and reunion of the Faculty of Dentistry; the well-attended Dullah Omar lecture by Higher Education and training Minister Naledi Pandor; and the extensive thought leadership of Prof Ruth Hall and Prof Ben Cousins of the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) that ensured UWC led the way on the debate on land reform in South Africa.

Furthermore, Prof Hall was included in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on Land Reform.

We also continue to forge and cement solid ties with universities around the world and have had visits by long standing partners - the University of Ghent and the Vrije University in Belgium. The visit by new Rector Magnificus of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands was also an important event for UWC. A UWC delegation visit to our friends at the University of Missouri in the United States – with whom we have enjoyed an immensely rewarding relationship for more than 30 years – also served to strengthen relations.

Developing the campus and surrounds

One of the highlights of 2018 was undoubtedly the opening by Minister Pandor of the new Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (CHS) building in the Bellville CBD and the Computational and Mathematical Sciences (CAMS) building on the main campus.

The CHS building signals UWC’s first foray outside the main campus in terms of infrastructural development that entrenches the University as an agent for catalytic change in the reinvigoration of the Bellville CBD. The state-of-the-art facility provides a space like never before for students to receive both theory and practical training in nursing, occupational therapy, natural medicines and physiotherapy.

The CAMS building enables a unique cross-faculty collaboration between the Faculty of Natural Sciences and the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. The CAMS building declares the University’s commitment to proactively engaging with the Fourth Industrial Revolution to produce excellent research and graduates in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Minister Pandor praised UWC during her keynote address at the openings for its vision for strategic growth and its determination to succeed. She remarked that UWC should indeed call itself a formerly black university because its achievements belied its status as a historically disadvantaged institution.

In 2019, we look forward to the further growth of the campus and surrounding areas with the Greatmore Street project in Woodstock to house the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects with the world famous Handspring Puppet Company, under the auspices of the UWC Centre for Humanities Research – the only national flagship project of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation. The Greatmore Street venue recently hosted a Jakes Gerwel commemoration by UWC and the Jakes Gerwel Foundation that celebrated our former vice-chancellor’s legacy. It was well covered in the media and received much positive publicity for the University.

We are indebted too to Prof Kwesi Kwaa Prah, a Sociology lecturer at UWC from 1992 to 1997, who donated a property in Rondebosch to UWC, along with the Centre of Advanced Studies of African Society that he founded, and an extensive library. The centre focuses on linguistic scholarship.

Work is underway for an exciting new Faculty of Education precinct on campus that will further develop in 2019. In addition, there are student accommodation projects that are in various phases of development and these efforts will assist the University to provide quality, affordable accommodation for its students in residence.

In conclusion

On a personal note, I am humbled and appreciative of the Council and the University’s decision-making bodies for its faith in me and extending my tenure as Rector and Vice-Chancellor. I remain deeply committed to UWC as a fine academic institution and to ensure that we create a university where future generations of students will continue to excel.

The new year will bring new challenges and developments. I am confident that we will deal with whatever comes our way with the resolve we have become known for. I look forward to working with you all in the new year and trust you will come back to us from your holidays rejuvenated so that together, you and I can continue building towards taking UWC to its rightful place as an institution of excellence on the continent and in the world.

Finally, I wish colleagues in our executive, Council, students, academics and staff across the University a well-deserved break with your families and loved ones this festive season.

Prof Tyrone Pretorius
Rector and Vice-Chancellor



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