UWC Vice Chancellor, Today marks the beginning of a new season, a new age for the University of the Western Cape – as we welcome new leadership and inaugurate our new Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius.”
So said University of the Western Cape (UWC) Chancellor, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, speaking at the inauguration of the University’s new Vice-Chancellor on 16 February 2015 – UWC’s 7th Rector since the institution was launched in 1960.
Students, staff, government officials, Vice-Chancellors of other universities (including UCT, SUN, WITS, SU and CPUT) attended the special occasion, and the overall tone was one of celebration. Several speakers, including UWC Chairperson of Council, Mthunzi Mdwaba, and former South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe, highlighted the pivotal role higher education plays in the development of South Africa and the African continent, in addition to addressing the challenges faced by academic institutions – and expressed their confidence that Prof Pretorius would help UWC meet these challenges head-on. “I am confident that his appointment is advantageous to the nation and the UWC community at large,” said Motlanthe.
Prof Pretorius, who was appointed by Council last year, is a respected academic, teacher and leader, who holds two doctorates (a DPhil from UWC and a PhD from the University of Free State) and has been published widely in the field of behavioural psychology. He’s no stranger to UWC, having previously served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, and Dean of the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences. He’s also a proud UWC alumnus, who earned his BA, BA Honours, MA and D.Phil right here at the University.
“I have just returned to UWC after an absence of almost ten years,” he said. “The UWC I knew before I left and the UWC I have returned to are significantly different.”
He returns to UWC with a career in higher education that spans 33 years, 25 of them spent in a range of senior leadership positions. In his absence from UWC, Prof Pretorius served as the Vice-Principal at the University of Pretoria (having previously served as Pro Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash South Africa), gaining key leadership insights during this time.
An Engaged and Dynamic University of the Future
Prof Pretorius praised the University community for its progress over the years, singling out the exemplary job done by his predecessor, Prof Brian O’Connell, and his predecessors, in setting up strong and solid foundations for progress.
“UWC has a proud intellectual tradition of overcoming adversity, which is metaphorically the subtext of my message that ‘one’s origin does not define your destiny’. And under Brian O’Connell’s inspiring leadership, UWC has forged ahead to become one of the nation’s acknowledged research-intensive universities and a formidable intellectual powerhouse,” he noted. “UWC’s research impact in fields from genetics and biotechnology to nanoscience, from renewable energy to space science, places it in the leading position or among the leaders in South Africa. And we’ve achieved similar results in the humanities and social sciences.”
But a good foundation will not be enough to bring the University to the heights it can potentially attain, he noted – especially when faced with the challenges of a changing world.
“What was good for yesterday may not be good for today. Universities are dynamic insofar as they are engaged with their context in time and space, and responsive to it,” Prof Pretorius noted. “UWC’s context has changed dramatically over the years.”
Universities need to focus on the big picture, and direct their energies towards solving the grand challenges of health, education, crime, governance – and especially poverty, social unrest and climate change. Only by building an effective academic network, producing top-quality research and effective teaching, and above all, real learning – and the ability to un-learn and re-learn – can UWC play a leading role in helping South Africa, and humanity as a whole, face these challenges and attain a greater future.
“There is a saying that the greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it,” Prof Pretorius concluded. “Society has entrusted us all with a special university. It is our duty to future generations to pass on the gift we have received in an even better state than it was in when we received it.”
Want to learn more of Prof Pretorius’ vision for UWC? Read the full text of his speech here.