Vice-Chancellor Message – 14 April 2022

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Dear UJ Community,

As I reflect on my incoming second term as Vice-Chancellor and the beautiful road we have travelled together in my first term, I am grateful for the support from all of you. I look forward to working with you in my second term as we positively transform our country. I am committed to seeing through UJ becoming the best university in South Africa in terms of, amongst others, research output. According to the latest Department of Higher Education and Training Research Output Report, we are almost there, ranked in second position two years in a row.

This week I beamed with pride, seeing our graduates walk across the graduation stage for the first time in two years, following stringent COVID-19 restrictions. The jubilant scenes at the Soweto Campus, accompanied by the sound of cameras snapping away at colourful regalia floating in the autumn breeze, was something to behold! The vibrant ceremony, reflecting the quality and diversity of UJ’s programmes, was a fitting reminder to the Autumn graduation series (from 11 April to 17 May 2022).

Just over 11 000 undergraduate diplomas and degrees as well as postgraduate degrees, including almost 300 master’s graduates and 40 doctorates, will be conferred during this Autumn graduation series. This series comprises 37 ceremonies spread over five weeks. Congratulations to all the graduates, and well done! Education is more than just a diploma or degree. I hope that the transformative experience that our graduands had at UJ will enable them to lead and excel in a diverse world and contribute to the upliftment of their communities and the society at large. As Scottish novelist, essayist, and poet Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, the 2020 and 2021 qualifications were awarded and conferred by means of virtual graduation sessions. However, given that a graduation ceremony is such a momentous occasion in a student’s life, the 2020 and 2021 graduates will also be given an opportunity to experience a graduation celebration in ‘real-time’ on campus. This is scheduled from the middle of July to the end of August, also at the Soweto Campus.

Talking of achievements, it gives me great pleasure to announce that our University has once again been recognised by the 2022 QS World University Rankings by Subject. The QS Ranking covers a total of 51 disciplines, grouped into five broad subject areas. The ranking identifies the subjects that universities are strong in, particularly in academic reputation and research output. Research citations, along with results of major global surveys of employers and academics, are also used to rank the universities.

UJ excelled in several subjects. The University is now ranked in the Top 150 globally in Hospitality and Leisure Management and Number 1 in South Africa. Additionally, English Language and Literature is ranked in the Top 300 globally and Number 4 in SA. Education and Training is ranked at the Top 350 globally and Number 4 in SA. Economics and Econometrics, Chemical Engineering and Agriculture and Forestry are now in the Top 400 globally at Number 4, 5 and 6 in SA, respectively. To read about other UJ subject rankings, click here. I would like to thank all staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students for making this accomplishment possible.

As indicated above, UJ is now ranked second in South Africa, according to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s latest Research Outputs report. UJ attained a total of 2324.94 published research units appearing in approved books, conference proceedings and journal articles, in addition to innovations and creative outputs for 2020. This is an increase of 29.31 units from the 2276.30 units awarded for 2019 publications. To Prof Saurabh Sinha, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation and all our academics and researchers who contributed to this feat, well done! Enjoy this video that shows our progress over the years!

Still on achievements, Universities South Africa (USAf) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) honoured two teams from our Faculty of Humanities by awarding them medals for Social Sciences and Humanities. The team at the Africa Centre for Evidence, led by Prof Ruth Stewart, received recognition for their commitment to diversity and their emphasis on partnerships and relationships in all that they do. Their value-based approach drives their work, aimed at reducing poverty and inequality in Africa through greater use of evidence in decision-making. They have completed over 75 projects supporting evidence-informed social policy across a wide range of sectors, from agriculture to transport and education.

The Centre for Social Change, led by Prof Carin Runciman, received the award in recognition of their partnership with the HSRC Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES) research division on the UJ/HSRC Covid-19 Democracy survey. The partnership was created out of the mutual recognition of the need for rapid response social science research that could inform the pandemic response. The research has helped to apprise the government on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, vaccine mandates and structural barriers to vaccination. In addition, Prof Keyan Tomaselli, also from Humanities and Prof Habib Noorbhai, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, were both finalists in the Established and Emerging Researcher category, respectively. Click here to read more on this. Congratulations to everyone, and well done!

You might recall that I recently mentioned that myself, together with some of my colleagues at UJ, were finalists in the ICT sector’s awards for 2021, presented by the Institute of IT Professionals SA (IITPSA), in association with ITWeb, the Gordon Institute of Business Science and EngineerIT. I am humbled to have been named as the IT Personality of the Year. The awards were hosted online on Tuesday under the theme, “Excellence in the new normal”. The awards, which recognise the IT industry’s leading chief information officers (CIOs), personalities and organisations, have been an annual event for over 40 years. The IT Personality of the Year recognises an IT professional who has made a significant contribution to the industry. I dedicate this award to the University Management Executive Committee (MEC) and the entire UJ Community. For more on this, including past winners, click here.

I have been impressed that more and more of our academics, researchers and students are contributing to knowledge through thought leadership articles or Op-Eds, as they are traditionally known. Lately, it was pleasure to read an article by Dr Prinola Govenden, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), entitled Print media wilts under microscope. Dr Tebogo Mashifana, Senior Lecturer and Head of Department: Chemical Engineering Technology, also penned an article entitled The high cost of obtaining a PhD degree in South Africa. For those of you who need support regarding Op-Eds, our Strategic Communications Unit, University Relations, is on hand to assist.

On a different note, I am pleased to announce that the UJ Council approved the UJ Ethics Charter at its meeting on 31 March 2022. The Transformation Unit will be responsible for the implementation of the Charter and the mandatory Ethics Awareness Training. You will soon receive communication from the Transformation Unit proving further details on how to access the information via Blackboard. To access the UJ Ethics Charter, click here.

Last night, our University hosted the Premier of Gauteng Mr. David Makhura, MEC: Finance and eGovernment, Ms Nomantu Nkomo Ralehoko, and their team. A number of collaborative areas have been defined and renewed. The Premier particularly highlighted how the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) could benefit the collaboration. More details on this will be announced at a later stage.

Earlier this week, we communicated an important message regarding our Mandatory Vaccination Policy and Implementation Protocols. I thought it was important to reiterate this for the benefit of all staff and students. Since the adoption of this policy, we have made good progress to ensure compliance. To date, 97.6% of our fixed term and permanent staff have complied. More than 92% undergraduate students and 69% postgraduate students are also compliant. Thank you to all!

As indicated previously, our approach to this policy has always been guided by the principle of supporting those in need of help and ensures that we adapt to new realities. In this regard, we have decided to give employees and students who are yet to be compliant more time to do so. This grace period (which will apply until further notice) has been informed by, amongst other factors, the lifting of the National State of Disaster.

During this grace period, students and staff who are not yet vaccinated, will be allowed to access campus, subject to presenting a negative PCR test not older than 7 days at the point of entry. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. To read more about this, as well as information on assistance for students and postdoctoral research fellows with difficulty in submitting their vaccination certificates, click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. You may also visit the UJ website www.uj.ac.za.

On a sad note, scenes from the flood-ravaged eThekwini and other regions of KwaZulu-Natal this week have been unbearable to witness. The regions recorded more than 351mm of rainfall between 8 and 11 April, which caused untold damage to property and infrastructure, including electricity, roads and bridges as well as schools health facilities. At least 300 people have died, according to KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government. Amid this crisis, it has been heartening to see civil society and humanitarian groups stepping in and rolling up their sleeves to help. Condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones, and our thoughts are with those who will have to rebuild in the week and months to come.

UJ will be launching a fundraising initiative to assist the KwaZulu-Natal community to rebuild. The Chair of Council, Mr Mike Teke, is donating R100,000, and I am donating R20,000. This will be given to the Gift of the Givers, a trusted humanitarian NGO that has been at the fore of aid at this difficult time. We call upon those who can voluntarily lend a hand to rebuild KwaZulu-Natal to do so. Click on this link to donate:  https://uj.devman.co.za/devman/online/giving/. I have reflected on how we can handle disasters such as this in an article that can be accessed here.

Lastly, I would like to wish you all a blessed and pleasant Easter long weekend. For those of you who will be travelling, please be safe.

As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.

Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!

Issued by:   

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

 University of Johannesburg             

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

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