Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng started the year as deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation at UCT. Then in July, her career took a well-earned rise when she was appointed vice-chancellor of the university with effect from 1 July 2018.
The UCT Council congratulated Professor Phakeng on reaching this milestone in her career.
Chair of Council Sipho Pityana said that the decision to appoint Professor Phakeng had followed a competitive recruitment process that included public presentations to stakeholders by the shortlisted candidates. What had stood out was her sound knowledge of the key challenges and opportunities arising from the changing higher education environment both locally and globally.
While her appointment was lauded, it wasn’t just the council or other academics who stand to benefit. Phakeng has been committed to demonstrating a spirit of ubuntu throughout her career. She is the founder of the Adopt-a-learner trust, a nonprofit organisation that provides financial support to learners from townships and rural areas to acquire higher-education qualifications.
When she assumed the position of vice-chancellor Phakeng pledged 10% of her salary to funding black postgraduate students. This amounts to R200 000 a year. She also forfeited her inauguration ceremony to reduce unnecessary expenditure.
“The basic thing is, it’s not consistent with my values to spend money when there is such a shortage of it,” she said in an interview with City Press.
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Commenting on her appointment, Professor Phakeng said, “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. Here is her heartwarming welcome message from the first day on the job:
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