The University of Pretoria’s Academic Achievers Awards is an annual occasion which recognises the outstanding teaching and research that contributes to UP’ position as one of South Africa’s leading universities. In a university such as UP, where the everyday norm is high quality in all activities, assessing academic excellence in teaching and research is a complex matter. As a result, to identify a truly exceptional achievement, the University rely on peer review which is internationally recognised as the gold standard in assessing academic quality.
In the case of research, the National Research Foundation (NRF) rating system is a key mechanism used by the university to identify excellence. The NRF rating system is peer review processes that assist in benchmarking research at both national and international levels. It is a rigorous evaluation process and only about one tenth of all academic staff employed at South African universities have such a rating. Thus, being NRF rated in itself a significant achievement.
Prof Rashid Hassan received the most prestigious Chancellor’s Award with regard to his significant contributions he has made to advance scientific knowledge and literature in the field of natural and environmental resource economics and policy analysis.
Some key areas in which he has made contributions are:
- The development of sustainable indicators that correct measures of economic performance and welfare in the field of natural income accounts.
- The study of managing ecosystems for human well-being and the complex dynamics of the inter-linkages between social and ecological systems.
- The study of the impact of and adaptation to climate change, particularly on agriculture in Africa.
UP’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Cheryl de la Rey congratulated all the recipients of the awards and attributed ratings and rankings to individual researchers who demonstrated diligence and passion on their respective fields.
Dr Rob Adam also congratulated the recipients of the awards and urged universities to train their graduates to recognise quality throughout their lives. He also encouraged the establishment of schools at secondary level, that apply demographically affirmative principles but which select the very best students and grooms them to be at the forefronts of knowledge. Dr Adam said there is a need to cherish and to cultivate intellectual excellence in this country, and if not “we are in serious danger of becoming ultimately an empty society blown by the winds of international fashion, swept by the currents of populism and killed by the cancer of materialism”.