By Alois Vinga
ZIMBABWEAN academic Tawana Kupe (54) has been appointed Vice Chancellor and Principal at South Africa’s University of Pretoria (UP).
He takes over from Professor Cheryl de la Rey who has resigned and will be taking up a similar post at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
In a statement, UP said that Kupe’s appointment comes after a difficult assessment process.
“The appointment was made in terms of the procedure set out in the University’s Regulation and Procedure for the Appointment of the Vice Chancellor and Principal,” reads the statement in part.
“The process included, among other steps, presentations by the shortlisted candidates to a joint meeting of the Council, Senate and Institutional Forum, voting by the Senate and Institutional Forum on the suitability for appointment of the shortlisted candidates, and interviews with the six shortlisted candidates by the Joint Committee of Council.”
Futhi Mtoba, chairperson of the University of Pretoria Council, described Kupe as the best person for the job.
“We believe that Professor Kupe comes to the position with considerable experience at executive level and is the best candidate to lead the university into the future.”
In his acceptance speech, Kupe said universities have a critical role to play in skills development.
“Universities have a responsibility to develop educated, well-informed and professionally skilled people who can address local and global challenges and contribute towards creating successful and thriving societies.
“To be able to play these critically important roles, universities must enjoy academic freedom and institutional autonomy, allow for freedom of inquiry and be transparent, accountable and ethical in their practices in all respects.”
Professor Kupe has long history in higher education administration.
He is currently the Vice-Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, responsible for the daily running of the University and the coordination of operations across all executive portfolios.
Prior to this appointment, he held the rotating Vice-Principal post for one year and also served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Advancement, Human Resources and Transformation from January 2013.
Professor Kupe served as the Executive Dean of the Wits Faculty of Humanities for six years, between January 2007 and December 2012, after serving as the Head of the then Wits School of Literature and Language Studies, and the founding Head of the Media Studies Department.
Before joining Wits, he lectured at Rhodes University between 1999 and 2001, and briefly acted as the Head of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.
Kupe joined Rhodes from the University of Zimbabwe, where he worked in various academic capacities from 1988, including as Chairperson of the Department of English, Media and Communication Studies.
He holds a BA honours degree and Masters in English from the University of Zimbabwe as well as a DPhil in Media Studies from the University of Oslo in Norway.