By Harriet Box
During this April graduation the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is celebrating the achievements of thousands of its students who will no doubt go on to do great things. A total of 4 231 students have and will be graduating since Wednesday, 5 April until Thursday, 13 April – at a total of 14 ceremonies.
Amongst the 4 231 students, some completed their studies cum laude or summa cum laude. At these April 2017 graduation ceremonies, the University is conferring 49 PhDs, 198 Master’s, 630 honours, 2 636 degrees and more than 700 diplomas and certificates over the two-week period.
The occasion represents the most visible evidence of UWC’s successes and achievements. Thus far these graduation ceremonies have honoured visually impaired students who were applauded for qualifying against all odds, various doctorate and master’s degrees recipients who have been cheered, and some light-hearted moments, including a student who tried to take a selfie with the rector during his moment in the spotlight. And let’s not forget the unrestrained tears of joy as parents and family showed their pride and erupted into spontaneous applause for the special people in their lives.
A pleased Prof Tyrone Pretorius, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, congratulated the graduands on their achievements, as well as lecturers for their collective efforts.
He thanked parents and guardians for their support, especially during and in the aftermath of the past two years of student protests.
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He said the diversity of the students, the different categories from PhD to Certificates, and the levels of achievements attest to UWC’s success. “It has become – a place of quality, a place to grow, from hope to action through knowledge.
“At UWC we strive for academic excellence. However, ours is not excellence without a soul. We are a university playing a critical role in the transformation agenda of this country. We share the view that education is the only way through which society can prosper.
“The purpose of education is to free the minds and ennoble the soul. It is to free our youth from the presumptions and prejudices with which they were raised – freed by the power of ideas to pursue their own path in life.
“We see our role as contributing to the moulding and grooming of young people into adults who will take up important responsibilities in society. Here at UWC, we educate people with a conscience, who will use their knowledge and expertise to the benefit of their communities.
“I say this because in August last year, this university was ranked number 1 in Africa and South Africa in physical science research and publications.
Times Higher Education Ranked UWC 102 among the Universities in BRICS & the Emerging Economies in November 2016. This places us among the top 300 institutions in 50 countries. Last year we also became the first African university to have an experiment to run at the European Centre for Nuclear Research, the Holy Grail for science research.
“In June last year, a team of UWC scientists in Bioinformatics came second at the Innovation Prize for Africa awards for their innovation of a software programme, the Exatype, which enables health-care workers to determine HIV + patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment. This is the first of its kind.”
Early last year UWC launched the first hydrogen fuel forklift in South Africa and hydrogen refuelling station, developed by the University’s team of researchers and innovators.
“The achievements that we celebrate today have been made possible because over the past few years we invested in the development of our staff, and the retention and recruitment of highly skilled and competent academics.
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“Not only have we increased the number of academics with PhDs, but a significant number of our professors are ranked highly nationally and internationally.” He said about the unfolding national events in South Africa, “It points to a country gripped by greed and corruption, drifting away from its founding values and teetering towards a precipice.
“If there ever is a time when a nation is called upon to defend its values, it is now. This is the time for credible leadership across society and civil society to stand united in defense of a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.
“Hence, my call for you, the graduands, to understand your role in society as change agents and to be engaged as active citizens.”