UCT appoints Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng as new vice-chancellor

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has been officially appointed as the new vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Her appointment comes into effect on July 1 this year, UCT chairperson Sipho Pityana announced in a statement addressed to the university community today.

Phakeng occupied the deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) for research and internationalisation before her appointment as the VC.

She will take over from Dr Max Price, who has been at the helm since 2008.

Phakeng competed with University of Western Cape’s deputy vice-chancellor for academics Professor Vivienne Lawack for the post.

Last month, an unofficial voting card putting Phakeng ahead of Lawack circulated on social media and was accompanied by messages congratulating her for the position.

However, the university dismissed claims that she had been appointed at the time as the selection process had not been completed.

In his statement today, Pityana said the council made a decision to appoint Phakeng following a competitive selection process.

“Council congralulates Professor Phakeng in reaching this milestone in her career and is encouraged by the high level of support she has received from different stakeholders during the selection process. The overwhelming confidence in her leadership is an endowment from which she will draw as she takes up this complex and yet exciting role,” Pityana said.

He said the UCT council was confident that in Phakeng they had found a suitable and capable candidate who will provide academic, strategic, transformational and ethical leadership and vision for the institution.

“We trust her to lead and manage the institution in pursuing its 2016-2020 strategic plan, which she was involved in developing. Both in the short time that she has been with UCT and during the recruitment process, she has demonstrated the required senior executive leadership experience in the university environment. She has both an ability to exercise academic leadership as well as a successful track record of strategic management.”

Pityana said what also stood out about Phakeng was her sound knowledge and understanding of the key challenges and opportunities arising from the changing higher education environment in the country and globally.

Phakeng said about her appointment: “I am honoured to have been afforded an opportunity to lead one of the best institutions on the continent. I am particularly humbled by the overwhelming support that I have received within the university community. I know that the task that lies ahead is a mammoth one and I do not underestimate its complexities. In every challenge we face there are also opportunities. I also know that alongside all the members of the campus community, we will meet the challenges and reach even higher milestones as an institution.”

She said she will work tirelessly to enhance UCT’s cutting-edge research, which speaks directly to the challenges of the country, region, continent and the world.

“We will grow and develop talented academics, other staff and students from South Africa, elsewhere on the continent and internationally. I wish for UCT to become a phenomenal international experience for our students, an experience that is profoundly embedded in academic excellence and that is uniquely African – an experience positively unforgettable. We will rethink curricula and make sure we broaden our pursuit of excellence in research, teaching and learning and in all our activities. There is a lot to do and I look forward to beginning this task.”

Price congratulated Phakeng on the “exciting personal and professional achievement”.

He said the role of VC at UCT was an extremely demanding one.

“But I have no doubt that Professor Phakeng has qualities that will stand her in good stead as she takes on this significant challenge. Under the leadership of Professor Phakeng, we can expect to see the university develop further and reach even greater heights. Professor Phakeng has eight years of experience as a DVC at two universities and her two years at UCT will ensure a smooth transition,” Price said.

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