Vice-Chancellor Message – 29 April 2022
Dear UJ Community,
While I was visiting Silicon Valley and some of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) companies, such as Google, in the United States of America this week, I received excellent news about the latest university rankings. In this year’s 2022 edition of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings released on Wednesday, UJ has improved its global ranking and has been ranked overall at position 69 in the world, out of 1406 ranked institutions (289 more than last year). The rankings means that UJ has climbed by 23 places from position 92 in the world in last year’s 2021 edition. For the fourth time, in a row, UJ continues to take the leading position in the country. On the continental position, we are somewhat displaced – we are now at number two, behind Aswan University in Egypt.
For the 17 individual SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) impact rankings, UJ has been ranked in the Top 100 universities in the world for 7 SDGs with a notable third place in the world for SDG 1: No Poverty – up from fourth position last year and eighth place in the world for SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth (maintaining a top 10 global placement). UJ is now ranked 3rd in the world for SDG 1: No Poverty and 8th in the world for SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. To read more about UJ’s excellence growth trajectory in this rankings, click here.
Yesterday, I received exciting news that I have been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Members of this academy have included people such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Werner Heisenberg.
I was thrilled to share all of this news with the Minister of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation., Dr Bonginkosi ‘Blade’ Nzimande, who was leading our working trip to Silicon Valley, which is at the heart of the 4IR ecosystem in the United States. We also visited Stanford University and Google to study the innovation ecosystem of the United States and see what lessons we can draw and take back home to South Africa so as to improve the fortunes of our people.
Personally, it was heartwarming to meet some of my former students and UJ alumni, who shared their experiences in the US and their fond memories of their years at UJ. While nostalgia of the bygone years of studying in the US slapped me hard, my encounters with the UJ alumni prompted me to briefly reflect on the progress that UJ has made over recent years to become one of the leading universities in the world. From the impressive ways we have integrated technology into pedagogy in the era of 4IR to our standing in the various global rankings to transformation, the achievements are too long to list on this platform. Indeed, we have certainly made giant strides towards becoming, “An International University of Choice, anchored in Africa, and Dynamically Shaping the Future.”
Interestingly, my visit to the US coincided with Elon Musk, one of the world’s billionaires, buying the social networking platform, Twitter, for $44 billion (c.a. R700 billion). A lot of questions have been raised about the acquisition, including concerns around the overconcentration of media in the hands of few wealthy individuals. I believe this provides a good case study for journalists and media practitioners. However, with this coming Monday (1 May) being commemorated as Workers Day in South Africa and other parts of the world, the acquisition reminds me about the importance of investing in human capital to build 4IR infrastructure and prepare our people for the jobs of the future.
It is concerning, for instance, that while Africa provides cheap labour for the data annotation industry, the continent reaps little benefit. The likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo use tech “labourers” in Kenya through US firm Samasource. While this creates employment, Kenya sees little of the technology its labourers are powering. You may read more about this in an article I wrote back in 2020.
As I wrote this newsletter yesterday, a day after Wednesday, 27 April – which is celebrated as Freedom Day in our country – I could also not resist the temptation to reminisce about our University’s trajectory to establish itself as a national standard bearer for transformation, equity, access and Pan-Africanism. It is pleasing to notice as our University’s enrolment increases annually, our student population also increasingly reflect our country’s demographic profile. It is also encouraging to see that the majority of the student population are first graduates from their families, which means we are contributing towards efforts to break the poverty cycle. Freedom is only worthwhile when it is infused with education, which is the most powerful weapon to change the world, to borrow from Nelson Mandela.
On this note, I am pleased to have noticed that UJ is listed among a few South African universities which have produced the most millionaires in the latest African Wealth Report for 2022, which was published this week. The report, produced by New World Wealth, details some of the most fascinating fiscal trends in South Africa, including the so called High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs), who are private citizens with a net worth of $1 million/R15 million, or more. There are around 40 000 of these financial elites who still reside in Mzansi. Though their spending habits remain a huge draw of curiosity, their education history also makes for an intriguing read. You may read more about this by clicking here.
As indicated last week, it has been heartening to see that the UJ KZN Floods Relief Fund, which we launched just before the Easter long weekend, is receiving support. We will soon hand over the funds to Gift of the Givers, a trusted humanitarian NGO that has been at the forefront of aid during difficult times in South Africa and other countries. 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/. If we invest in the rebuilding of KwaZulu-Natal, all of us win.
As many would know, Gauteng is among the provinces that are grappling with cable theft, which is a scourge that affects many suburbs and townships. As a result, the UJ Soweto Campus has now been without power for more than 21 day. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that officials and technicians at City Power, the City of Johannesburg’s power supply utility, are often intimidated during repairs. This has rendered the campus fully dependent on backup generator power. At present five generators are being run for the maximum times a day in order supply power to academic venues, student residences, administrative/support offices and other University sites. We appeal to staff and students to remain patient while the work to restore maximum possible power continues.
I also wish to remind you of the UJ Cleaning Campaign that started on Friday last week. The campaign takes place simultaneously across all our four campuses on Fridays, from 12:00 to 13:00, to coincide with the UJ Culture period. The next campaign is scheduled for next week Friday, May 6 As a global University, we host a wide array of local and international guests, and we want our grounds to continue to reflect the status of a world class university that we are renowned for. Our Campus Directors, led by Dr Joe Manyaka and supported by Community Engagement Unit, within the University Relations Division, are leading this initiative. The meeting points are follows:
- APB: Student Centre is the meeting place and final point.
- APK: The lawn next to Student Centre is the starting and final point.
- DFC: The Student Centre amphitheatre is the converging and end point.
- SWC: Lembede Garden is the assembly and final point.
On COVID-19 matters again, I wish to remind you that Our University, in collaboration with the Solidarity fund and the Department of Health, is providing further support to the University community. The COVID-19 Vaccination will once more be taking place today (29 April 2022) at the Bunting Road Campus from 09h00 until 15h00. I urge our employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy should use this opportunity For any additional information needed please call: 011 559-5571.
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.
I urge you to continue to wear your masks when in your office spaces indoors or inside communal areas. We also appeal to all to adhere to other recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
To those of you who celebrate Eid next week, Eid Mubarak!
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.