UKZN to be ‘truly African’ university, says vice-chancellor

2015-03-08 13:28

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The University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) will be positioned as the premier institution of African scholarship, according to vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld.

The university, said van Jaarsveld who was inaugurated yesterday in a glittering ceremony at the Westville Campus, will not just be a great university in Africa, but will strive to become a great African institution.

He said South African universities have little or nothing African about them.

“They are universities in Africa. But we want to make this place a truly African university, reflecting Africa’s knowledge systems, culture, identity and languages.”

“In its pursuit to become the premier university of African scholarship, UKZN has focused on its local context, developing a unique sense of identity in harnessing democracy for nation building,” he said.

Among others, the function was attended by ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and Deputy Higher Education Minister Mduduzi Manana.

Van Jaarsveld said an impressive degree of transformation has happened, but more is necessary.

“An explicit objective over the coming years at UKZN is to pursue transformation and excellence simultaneously, as a dual agenda. This means both, not one at the expense of the other. The degree of transformation already achieved at UKZN is phenomenal. The institution is now considered to be one of the most transformed institutions of higher learning in South Africa. Naturally, there is more work that needs to be done.”

Academic excellence is also one of his key strategies. The Department of Higher Education and Training has already declared UKZN as the top research-producing institution for the second year running.

“Despite these achievements, UKZN will focus on becoming increasingly competitive in research and its teaching and learning offering,” he said. We will not chase rankings, but the successful delivery of our strategy will have a positive ranking outcome.”

Van Jaarsveld, who is the former chief executive and president of the National Research Foundation (NRF), has published more than 100 papers, mostly in zoology. He was also instrumental in securing South Africa the Square Kilometre Array.

Pandor said his experience at the NRF should stand him in a good position to help the university deliver cutting edge research. “Your unique insight into research will be a key advantage.”

She said much will be expected of him because of the foundation already laid by outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

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