Celebrating excellence: Academics honoured at 2023 UP Academic Achievers' Awards

Posted on October 20, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) celebrated the much anticipated 2023 Academic Achievers' Awards, a celebration of excellence and achievement among our staff on Thursday, 19 October 2023. During this year’s event, now in its 23rd year, several awards were made, including the Chancellor’s Award, the Exceptional Academic Achievers' Award and the Exceptional Young Researchers Award. An impressive number of A, B, C and Y-rated researchers also received awards recognising their unwavering commitment to academic excellence.

The Chancellor's Award recipients include: Professor Nigel Bennett, who holds the Austin Roberts Chair in African Mammalogy (Department of Zoology and Entomology), and Professor De Wet Swanepoel, who is directing audiology research at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Hearing Loss (Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology).

Click on the images below for more pictures of our staff and guests at the 2023 UP Academic Achievers' Awards

Recipients of the Chancellor’s Award Professor Nigel Bennett (left) and Professor De Wet Swanepoel (right) with UP's Chancellor Emeritus Justice Sisi Khampepe (centre).

Recipients of the Chancellor’s Award Professor Nigel Bennett (left) and Professor De Wet Swanepoel (right) with UP's Chancellor Emeritus Justice Sisi Khampepe (centre).

In addition, 12 researchers were honoured with the Exceptional Academic Researchers Award, an annual recognition given to seasoned academics who have excelled in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, research, community engagement and administration over time. Any academic achieving an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in the given year automatically qualifies as an Exceptional Achiever, retaining this status while maintaining an A-rating. The esteemed recipients include Professors Andriëtte Bekker, Evans Chirwa, Paxie Chirwa, Teresa Coutinho, Ian Craig, Rangan Gupta, James Maina, Andrew McKechnie, Siona O’Connell, Theresa Rossouw, Dire Tladi, and Fanus Venter.

Outstanding young achievers recognised

As a leading institution of higher education, we are excited to honour the exceptional accomplishments of our staff across various disciplines. This event is one of celebration as we honour academics who have made their mark in society, through their work and high-quality contribution to the body of scientific knowledge. According to Professor Themba Mosia, Interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, “One of the University of Pretoria’s key driving forces is its commitment to delivering quality research outputs. We are, therefore, extremely proud of our exceptional achievers who not only anchor the University’s reputation as the leading research-intensive university in the country, but also continue to produce research that has a global impact.”

Lerato Mathabatha, Public Sector Director of Microsoft South Africa, delivered the keynote address, challenging the University to think about the next academic evolution.

Lerato Mathabatha, Public Sector Director of Microsoft South Africa, delivered the keynote address, challenging the University to think about the next academic evolution.

The UP Academic Achievers' Awards also recognised outstanding young achievers in the research sector, whose work is aligned with the University's objectives of attaining academic excellence, global competitiveness and local significance, with the Exceptional Young Researchers Award. Individuals receiving a P-rating from the NRF automatically qualify as Exceptional Young Researchers. Six researchers were honoured with this distinction, including Professor Inger Fabris-Rotelli, Professor Priscilla Gutura, Dr Charne Lavery, Professor Derik le Roux, Dr Tendani Mawela and Dr Markus Wilken.

UP, a renowned institution of higher learning, is devoted to nurturing academic excellence, fostering innovation and promoting the personal and professional growth of its students. The UP Academic Achievers' Awards exemplify our dedication to excellence and serve as a wellspring of inspiration for both students and the wider community. Our institution takes great pride in its status as a research-intensive powerhouse, firmly positioned within the top 1% of universities globally in 10 specialised fields.

Impressively, over 70% of our educators hold doctoral degrees. They are not solely educators but also renowned researchers, both on the international and local stage. With more than 613 faculty members recognised as leaders in their respective domains by the NRF, including 17 NRF A-rated researchers, their extraordinary expertise drives the generation of meaningful and transformative knowledge that elevates our nation across various dimensions.

‘Relentless pursuit of knowledge’

The event also recognised achievements in Teaching Excellence, Community Engagement, and The Conversation Africa Awards. Teaching Excellence awards were granted to nominated projects demonstrating purposeful teaching practices with a strong alignment between various elements, effectively addressing identified educational needs and gaps, ultimately aiming to innovate and enhance teaching and learning. These nominated initiatives displayed considerable impact on student learning, sustainability and potential replicability in diverse contexts. Dr Carin Combrinck received the individual award, while the group award was presented to Professor Tania Hanekom.

Part of the entertainment for the evening was provided by jazz-soul saxophonist Ayo Solanke.

Part of the entertainment for the evening was provided by jazz-soul saxophonist Ayo Solanke.

Annually, the Community Engagement Award is given to an individual who exemplifies the University of Pretoria's commitment to community engagement in higher education. The criteria for the award aligns with the international MacJannet Prize standards, as administered by the Talloires Network. Dr Gerna Wessels was the recipient of this recognition.

The Conversation Africa gives all higher education institutions an opportunity to share their research outputs with fellow academics across the globe as well as with civil society. UP’s partnership with The Conversation Africa has increased the visibility of the work of UP researchers and academics, helping them reach wider audiences beyond academic research communities. Professor Sandy Africa received the award for the single most-read article during the period 1 January 2022 to December 2023. Professor Danny Bradlow received the award for the author who published the most articles during the same period.

"I applaud our over 120 accomplished academics for their unwavering commitment to their students and their relentless pursuit of knowledge, continuing to be innovators. A university's excellence is defined by its exceptional faculty members, who possess inquisitive minds, a drive for knowledge generation and a strong dedication to preparing the next wave of researchers. Your contributions to the University and your meaningful research are highly appreciated. Thank you for your invaluable efforts," added Prof Mosia.

View or download the Academic Achievers' Awards 2023 booklet here

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