The University of Cape Town has again fallen in international rankings: it has fallen by more than 50 places in the past ten years. This is easily verified.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed UCT at 155th in the world a year ago. In 2022 it has fallen another 5 places: today it is at 160th place.
It’s a shocking indictment of the current Vice Chancellor Phakeng and her predecessor. Of course she does not suffer from this. It is the students seeking to get into universities abroad and it effects UCT’s ability to attract the brightest and the best academic staff. That is when the price is paid.
The leadership has plunged the university into a crisis so severe that three former chairs of UCT convocation had to appeal for calm. In a statement, Barney Pityana, Lorna Houston and Eddy Maloka have called for the university to use an upcoming meeting as “an opportunity” to calm the ongoing leadership troubles at the university.
The university previously failed to respond adequately to the damning conclusion of the UCT Ombud, Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, whose report labelled the Vice-Chancellor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, a “bully”.
Most importantly, the tragic death of Professor Bongani Mayosi – who was not adequately supported by the administration when he came under ferocious attack from a section of the students. UCT’s own report quotes a member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee who admitted that they sat through meetings with Professor Mayosi during which he “showed all the signs – all of the signs of anxiety and depression – and I did nothing. We all knew he was sick.” Professor Mayosi attempted to resign, but this was not accepted. Overall, the consequences of this terrible incident has not been faced by the administration.
It is hard not to avoid the conclusion that Vice Chancellor Phakeng has been a disaster for UCT.
As a former member of the academic staff of UCT, I am saddened by the slide of this proud institution down the international rankings, but far more deeply saddened and disturbed by the failure of governance and of collegiate spirit that underlies it’s evident academic decline