By Boitumelo Nte
Rhodes University held its 69th Annual Meeting of Convocation, together with its Annual General Meeting of the Old Rhodian Union at the Gavin Relly Postgraduate Village recently.
The Convocation’s yearly highlight is the Vice-Chancellor’s report, which was delivered by Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela. The VC’s report provides a reflection on the developments and activities of the University in the 12-month period between the annual Convocation meetings.
Dr Mabizela shared the intellectual endeavours and institutional achievements which have carried the institution forward in the past year.
Foremost, was the completion and implementation of the Institutional Development Plan (IDP), which will serve as the institution’s guide until 2022. Dr Mabizela reflected on the IDP’s four pillars: sustainability; local responsiveness and global engagement; advancing social justice; and the advancement of public good purpose in higher education in South Africa.
He also highlighted the University’s throughput success, as Rhodes University continues to lead in producing the highest number of graduates among the country’s public universities.
Research at Rhodes University remains equally outstanding, he said, having ranked first-place in terms of research output per capita, a position it shares with Stellenbosch University.
Rhodes University also leads in holding the most South African Research Chairs Initiatives (SARChI) in the higher education sector. Dr Mabizela highlighted the new appointments of two Rhodes University Professors, Distinguished Professor Martin Hill, Director of the Centre for Biological Control, and Professor Adrienne Edkins, Director of the Biomedical Biotechnology Research Unit, to the South African Research Chairs Initiative at the end of 2018.
Rhodes University’s top researchers continued to receive global accolades for their work, including Distinguished Professor Tebello Nyokong who received her fourth honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Western University, Canada. Prof Nyokong will receive the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines, which will be awarded in New York next year.
Distinguished Professor Christopher Martin McQuaid received a lifetime achievement award for his service and contribution to Marine Science at the 12th International Temperate Reefs Symposium in January 2019.
Furthermore, Rhodes University has also been successful in securing a number of government-funded staffing positions that target young and mostly black academics to develop their research and teaching careers.
Dr Mabizela spoke of the work achievements of staff and alumni across University disciplines and positions. These include: the Chancellor, Justice Lex Mpati, who chairs the judicial inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation; Chair of Council, Mr Vuyo Kahla, who served at the Nugent Commission of Inquiry on SARS; Senior Politics Lecturer, Dr Siphokazi Magadla, who served on the President’s High Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency; and the Eastern Cape’s Justice Clive Plasket, who has been appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Community engagement at Rhodes University continues to strengthen, and Dr Mabizela applauded the student body for their response to Makhanda’s’ most pressing and urgent socio-economic challenges.
Dr Mabizela highlighted a few key recent staff appointments, such as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) of Academic Affairs, Dr Mabokang ‘Monnapula-Mapesela, who succeeded the retiring Dr Chrissie Boughey on 1 July 2019. Dr ‘Monnapula-Mapesela comes in as Rhodes University’s first black female DVC.
In closing, Dr Mabizela urged members of Convocation to remember that Rhodes University indeed remains one of the best universities in the country, and that it provides quality and transformative education to young South Africans and internationals alike.
The Old Rhodian Union’s (ORU) Ms Nicci Hayes reported that the Union continued to strengthen its role in the life of the institution above its traditional fundraising mandate. While ORU has grown its funding efforts to support 43 students with bursaries totalling R437 000 (up from 2018’s 28 recipients), the Union also serves on the University’s Naming, Visual Representation and Arts and Culture Committee, as well as the Old Rhodian Award Committee. Ms Hayes revealed that ORU would unveil the transformed Distinguished Alumni Award trophy at the afternoon awards luncheon, which replaces the historical ‘Figure of Energy’ trophy.