University finally gets new leader, end to protests

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) this weekend settled on a new rector and vice-chancellor, ending weeks of protest against its current leadership and recruitment process.

Professor Tyrone Pretorius was named as predecessor to UWC’s current rector and vice-chancellor Brian O’Connell.

“Pretorius will arrive at UWC during the second semester of this year to allow for a smooth leadership transition at the university. He will take up his new role in 2015,” read a UWC statement.

Pretorius said yesterday his new role was a “responsibility I gladly embraced”. He said the university was a “remarkable institution”.

Pretorius worked previously as UWC’s dean of the faculty of community and health services. He had also been its deputy vice-chancellor.

Pretorius left UWC nine years ago and is currently the vice principal at the University of Pretoria.
“I have been away from UWC for a long time so I need to understand the new UWC, reconnect with old colleagues, and get to know new colleagues,” said Pretorius.

He said he would focus also on transformation at UWC, creating an institution that would carry the “primary responsibility in providing opportunities to talented people from all backgrounds, but especially the socially devalued and historically marginalised”.

“We should be concerned about access for talented young academics, especially black academics. We know that the number of young black people entering academia is declining for a variety of reasons and I am keen to ensure that we find creative ways to address this issue,” said Pretorius.

“But transformation is not only about numbers. It’s also about what we teach, and the impact of our research.”

Pretorius said his priority at UWC would be to “explore and identify opportunities and potential for strengthening research and innovation, teaching and learning”. He also wanted to “enhance the international stature of the university”.

“There is national and sector-wide concern about post graduate output and UWC like other institutions are looking at ways to improve postgraduate access, retention and completion,” he said.

Pretorius said he intended to focus on building a “sense of community and identity at UWC”, particularly after students protests earlier this month unsettled the institution.

Student protests called for O’Connell’s dismissal. O’Connell said last year he would resign. UWC had been interviewing various candidates for the top post.

Among these were Rhodes University vice-chancellor Saleem Badat who reportedly alleged that UWC’s recruitment process lacked integrity. Badat is set to take up a post at the Andrew W Mellon Foundation in New York.

Pretorius said: “I hope that I can play a role in strengthening staff and student belief in and commitment to UWC; what it stands for and what it wants to achieve.”

New rector and vice-chancellor’s track record
Professor Tyrone Pretorius was born in the Eastern Cape.
He matriculated at Carlton Van Heerden High School in Upington.
He is the current president of University Sports South Africa (the sports federation of Universities)
He is the Vice-Principal at the University of Pretoria
He is the former President of Monash University South Africa
He has spent almost 25 years working in higher education leadership positions, including four years as chair of the Cape Higher Education Consortium
He is an emeritus professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia
He has doctorates from the University of the Western Cape and the University of the Free State
He is a member of the Statistics Council of South Africa
He is a Yale Fellow
He has completed a leadership course at Oxford University

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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