Message from the Head of Department of Public Law

The vision and mission of the Department of Public Law of the University of Pretoria must be closely aligned to that of the University and Faculty and must, necessarily, take cognizance of the role and place of a Department of Public Law in a constitutional democracy.


The vision of the University of Pretoria declares that the University strives to be a ‘leading research‐intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, as also for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally’. Similarly, the vision of the Faculty of Law emphasises that it ‘strive[s] to be an internationally recognised leader in socially relevant legal research and education in South Africa and in Africa’.

The practice of the Department of Public Law, thus, is to deliver quality research that is relevant to the social context of South Africa and Africa, as well as excellence in education that develops people and creates knowledge which empowers communities, locally and globally.

As head of the Department of Public Law and in keeping with this vision I will work to ensure:

  • The activities of the Department promote the values underlying the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996; human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms; non-racialism and non-sexism; and the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.
  • Specifically, our teaching, research and community engagement supports accountability, responsiveness and openness, and that the Department’s activities – whether they be teaching, research or community engagement – are relevant to the context in which we function and answer to the needs of and support a constitutional democracy.
  • Our aim is to deliver graduates who are able to take their place in a society that is based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and who are ready to contribute to improving the quality of life of all South Africans and in promoting each individual to their full potential.
  • The Department exemplifies academic excellence, in the context of teaching and high-impact research, nationally and internationally.
  • The Department is compliant with the expectations of applicable regulatory frameworks and policy documents.


The Mission of the University states that ‘[i]n pursuing recognition and excellence in its core functions of research, teaching and learning, and integrating engagement with society and communities into these, the University of Pretoria will use quality, relevance, diversity and sustainability as its navigational markers’. The Faculty of Law has as its mission the ‘creation and sustenance of a research and education environment that is grounded in values of social justice and excellence’.

In line with these mission statements, as head of the Department of Public Law, I support the expectation that undergraduate and postgraduate modules and certificate programmes offered by the Department:

  • are grounded in the values of social justice and excellence;
  • meet the demands of the legal professions;
  • meet the outcomes and requirements of regulatory bodies;
  • are locally relevant, taking into account the demands of the communities which we serve;
  • are internationally competitive, especially with regard to Africa;
  • prepare our graduates to undertake further research and to explore wider dimensions of the law independently.

Further, as head of the Department of Public Law, I will promote practices by which the members of the Department (academic and administrative):

  • reach their full potential in terms of their careers, in keeping with the policies of the Faculty and the University in this regard;
  • are recruited and appointed in order to promote transformation, employment equity and diversity;
  • continue to revise the modules and programmes offered by the Department so that they remain of high quality, are relevant and take due cognisance of social context, diversity and sustainability;
  • deliver high-quality education and research grounded in the values of social justice and excellence; and
  • develop in the students a sense of their own worth and the dignity of others, the diversity of backgrounds and historical experience of others, and a commitment through our teaching to our constitutional democracy.


In summary, then, I will promote the values of academic freedom, creative and innovative thought, ethical standards and integrity, accountability and social justice in the work of the Department of Public Law, its staff and its students.

I conclude with the words of Paul Goodman, from his essay ‘The community of scholars’, which describes the idea of the university, written long before I was born but which are still relevant. Goodman advocates that the role of a university as an autonomous institution – and I would argue that of a Department of Public Law - is to:


       ‘unblock the intellect . . . to prove that it is possible for persons to display intellectual virtues without embarrassment or punishment, and to use them in the community and in the world without futility.’


Prof Annelize G Nienaber

Head of Department
Department of Public Law

- Author Public Law
Published by Leon Gerber

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