University of Cape Town (UCT) vice-chancellor professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has been elected chair of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU).
Phakeng, who becomes the first African to head the IARU, was elected at the University of Cambridge during the IARU president’s meetings.
UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said Phakeng will succeed professor Stephen J Toope, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge in the UK. Moholola said Phakeng’s term would commence from 2023 to 2025.
“IARU is distinctive for its global reach across a relatively small membership, which allows unprecedented peer-to-peer networking and sharing,” said Moholola.
“Its activities range widely from working groups focused on vital aspects of running a leading research university – including equal opportunities, cybersecurity, libraries and open access – to tackling global challenges such as sustainable solutions to climate change. It also offers opportunities for students to attend joint courses and internships.”
Emphasising the significance of higher education in the aspect of global inequality, nationalism, and the planetary threat of climate change, Phakeng said UCT values the relationships established at the IARU.
She said: “UCT values deeply the close relationships within the alliance that generate the trust and insights to play a part in tackling these challenges together.”
Commenting on the election of Phakeng, Toope said: “I am delighted that Mamokgethi Phakeng will serve as the next chair of IARU. Our world is facing extraordinary challenges, and universities have a key role to play in sustaining and strengthening the global connections necessary to meet the moment.
“Since joining in 2016, UCT has made a significant contribution to all aspects of the alliance. Professor Phakeng will provide inspiring leadership and help members continue their joint efforts to secure a more equitable, sustainable future.”
Phakeng continues to fly the South African flag higher. On June 8, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa in Canada. She dedicated the honour to African women who paved the path for freedom.
Phakeng said at the time: “I want to dedicate this honorary doctorate to all the African women who paved the path for the freedom of people like myself, to dream big dreams and want to change the world for the better irrespective of how hard it may be. It gave us permission to dream big and want to change the world.”
This was Phakeng’s second honorary doctorate from an international university. In July 2019, Phakeng, who is serving her second term as vice-chancellor at UCT, was honoured at the UK’s Bristol University.
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