Towards a Smart Rural African University: 2020 - The Year of Renewal

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Academic Year 2020 shall be henceforth known as the Year of Institutional Renewal. 

Vice Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu made this declaration in front of staff and students as he delivered a keynote address during the official opening ceremonies at Alice and East London campuses on 13 and 14 February, respectively.  The events were held less than a week after the University of Fort Hare reached another milestone on 8 February – its 104th anniversary.

“It is time for our university to shake off the Historically Disadvantaged Institution (HDI) status. We must imagine a new university - a Smart Rural African University”, said the VC.

Addressing an audience of academics, support staff and students, the VC’s speech centred on a progressive vision for the University of Fort Hare over the next 10 years: 2020-2030.

“We must use this decade to take a great leap forward. Ten years is a realistic horizon for us to unveil new plans and see them to fruition. The year 2030 is within the working lifespan of many employees who are currently in the institution. We have an opportunity to assist and prepare them to execute the tasks necessary to achieve the vision”, he said.

Evidence of renewal

Prof Buhlungu spoke passionately about his vision for Fort Hare.  He believes institutional renewal will be the outcome of many actions and interventions and evidence will encompass the following:

  1. Financial sustainability that will see the University not only self-sufficient but also finding other sources of revenue beyond state grants and student fees;
  2. Efficient administration in all aspects;
  3. Moving towards being a ‘digital university’, including digitisation of work processes,  paperless office and meeting environments and a complete biometric access control environment;
  4. First class infrastructure for teaching and learning, student residences, campus life and administration;
  5. A new institutional culture characterised by an ethos of service that places students, staff, alumni and community members first;
  6. Safety on campus: All members of the University to experience campus as a safe space, whether in the residences, staff offices, teaching and learning spaces, staff houses and open and communal spaces;
  7. Zero tolerance for all  forms of gender-based violence;
  8. Zero tolerance for all  forms of fraud and corruption;
  9. Dedicated funds for student bursaries and scholarships at all levels;
  10. Dedicated funds for research support, particularly for young, women and black postgraduate students, post-doctoral fellows and staff;
  11. Establishing a culture of teaching and research excellence by providing a conducive environment, including funding, capacity building support and career guidance.”


“The idea is to position the University of Fort Hare by leveraging its illustrious history and other competitive advantages. We must position it to be a globally competitive higher education institution which can claim its rightful place among the top universities of the country, Africa and the world.”

Professor Renuka Vithal (DVC - Academic Affairs) delivered the opening address.  She reminded students that the world is their oyster and that UFH presents a host of opportunities.

In her closing remarks Prof Nokwethemba Ndlazi (DVC - Institutional Support) challenged the university community to preserve the iconic institution.


By Aretha Linden