Rhodes University and Allan Gray align shared vision for better tomorrow

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Rhodes University and Allan Gray representatives on the steps of the Main Administration Building
Rhodes University and Allan Gray representatives on the steps of the Main Administration Building

By The Division of Communications and Advancement


A visit by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (AGOF) to Rhodes University provided an opportunity for the AGOF team to meet with the champions of innovation, leadership and community engagement initiatives at Rhodes University, and together explore ways to strengthen the partnership between AGOF and the institution 'where leaders learn'.

Since the inauguration of the current Vice Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela, great strides have been made to forge links that create a better life and environment for students and Makhanda residents. Such is the nature of the relationship with long-term partners such as AGOF. The collaboration between the two institutions is not just a partnership, it is a shared vision for a brighter future. The relationship includes support from other Allan & Gill Philanthropies Group of Entities, such as Funda Wande to develop the Rhodes University Advanced Certificate in Foundation Phase Literacy Teaching, which graduated its second cohort in 2023, and the 2012 establishment of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics.

AGOF contributes to the collective aspirational goal of "Ten million lives meaningfully improved by 2030," which represents the overarching objective of the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies group of entities. Their drive is to promote and encourage enterprise and entrepreneurship among the youth of South Africa.

In this structured engagement between Rhodes University and AGOF, specific themes emerged between teams led by executives from both institutions. Themes and synergies included those of ethical leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, social justice, and the 'scholarship of engagement' infused throughout the curriculum at the University. Director of the Rhodes Business School, Professor Owen Skae, noted that, “Together stakeholders, supporters, students and the community can 'galvanise and unite for something bigger than ourselves.”

Presentations covered opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and enterprise offered by the Rhodes University Biotechnology Innovation Centre (RUBIC), which engages with the community via a network of partnerships, including a water testing facility and small-scale cannabis farmers. RUBIC is also working with UNICEF on foetal and maternal health. The University's Technology Transfer Office is housed in RUBIC, and serves the research community of Rhodes University, creating awareness of the importance of intellectual property in the innovation and entrepreneurial space. The newly-formed Rhodes University Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator (RU-CFERI) nurtures these skills of enterprise,  development and marketing.  

Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) is infused throughout the Rhodes University curriculum – a 'scholarship of engagement' promoting the values of ethical leadership and social justice. The VC's Education Initiative takes a multi-stakeholder approach, harnessing the social capital of Rhodes University students, with a near 50% volunteer rate. Its aim is to create community-university partnerships which cover the full educational spectrum, and to establish effective communities of practice in the public school sector.

RUCE’s flagship 9/10ths programme targets Matrics, but other interventions include Early Childhood Development, and bridging interventions between the intermediate phase and high school, and between high school and university.  The positive impact of the Initiative can be seen in the 2022 Matric results, with 305 Bachelor passes from Makhanda public schools, and two no-fee schools in the top three for matric passes. At the behest of the VC, a city-wide education summit will be held in January 2024, representing the collective ownership of the education sector within Makhanda – and to officially launch Rhodes University’s 120th year of academic excellence. 

Social justice is an important value held by both Rhodes University and AGOF. Once students are admitted to Rhodes University, their welfare and access to learning are of primary importance. The residences are 'Living and Learning' spaces, with a wide diversity of students accommodated. The University has an active Disability Committee, recognising both visible and invisible disabilities, and the Gender Action Forum works with staff and students towards making the campus a place for LGBTQIA students to flourish. Each residence has a RUCE representative and takes on a community engagement project each year. 

In closing this first meeting, Head of Programmes at AGOF Charleen Duncan reiterated that the goals of Rhodes University and AGOF were closely aligned: “We have a lot of work to do and we cannot do it by ourselves. Collaboration is so important,” she stated.

Entrepreneurship Education Programme Director, Jalal Ghiassi-Razavi, added: "Rhodes University is special. Without the University in Makhanda, without the ecosystem the University provides, the town will not thrive. It's a challenge, but the spirit to ‘do it ourselves’ makes it special.”

Professor Mabizela noted that Rhodes University and AGOF are firmly united in their joint purpose and praised the strong partnership between the two.

"We invite organisations and individuals to join us on this transformative journey. Together, we can unlock new opportunities, empower the next generation, and make a lasting impact on South African youth and communities," he concluded.

For more information, visit https://www.ru.ac.za/givingtorhodes/ or contact Ellen e.duplessis@ru.ac.za or on +27 46 603 8509 if you would like to join us in creating a better tomorrow, together.