Zimbabwean Professor Tawana Kupe appointed vice-chancellor at South Africa’s University of Pretoria

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Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Virgilatte Gwangwa

There is a new helmsman to steer the University of Pretoria ship from the next academic year.

The university announced the appointment of Zimbabwean Professor Tawana Kupe, 54, as the new vice-chancellor and principal.

His appointment is historic in that he becomes the first black vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria in more than 100 years.

Kupe wasted no time declaring his intention to steer the university up to the No 1 spot in rankings.

Kupe said he was humbled, grateful and excited to be joining such a large community of people producing excellent research.

He said he always knew the university, also known as UP and Tuks, was one of the most interesting, but did not know much about it.

He said that was until he was asked by those who believed in him to look into the position available following the resignation of Professor Cheryl de la Rey.

After serving the university since 2009, De la Rey resigned and has since been appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Kupe said: “I have been to the university’s premises a few times, and I knew that UP was one the top five universities together with Stellenbosch University and Wits, among others.

“But when I looked further I found out that it actually has very good academic fundamentals and the exciting thing is that it has the largest number of students at 53000 at the moment,” he said.

Kupe said the number of students was important, considering the country’s history and that of the continent; more people needed access into higher education.

He said there was a great need for people in higher education to become anything they aspired to be, in order to develop the continent economically.

“I found that UP is producing the largest number of research units as accredited by the department of higher education and training.

“That is a tough balancing act to keep so many students to produce so much research.

“As I was reading about it and talking to people, I also found that there was great praise regarding its quality of education.

“Even employers are also proud of the graduates who come to work at their companies,” he said.

Kupe said what attracted him most to the university was its focus on the African continent at large, rather than just South Africa.

Kupe is no stranger to leadership positions at a top university; he was vice-principal at Wits University responsible for the institution’s daily running and the co-ordination of operations across all executive portfolios.

Under his leadership, he hoped to work well with all structures within the university in order to move UP to the number one spot among other universities.

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Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

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