VC of the University of Cape Town ranked on Times Higher Education’s 10 People of the Year

Professor Phakeng is among the 10 people “who mattered in higher education in 2020”, named by THE on Thursday, 17 December. The list comprises “the academics and administrators who have shaped the debate in the past 12 months”.

According to THE: “There is no doubt that higher education will need strong, transformational leadership as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, and few people embody this more than Phakeng. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town since 2018, she continued to speak out powerfully against inequality in South Africa and in academia globally over the past year.”


“If universities are to transform into more equal institutions, they will need leaders like Professor Phakeng who are not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths and hold the sector to account.”

Speaking at this year’s THE World Academic Summit, Phakeng said that universities needed to show more “reflection and humility” around their own “complicity” in perpetuating racism and sexism, and called for the creation of more diverse leadership teams and an end to the exploitation of researchers from the Global South.

“If universities are to transform into more equal institutions, they will need leaders like Professor Phakeng who are not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths and hold the sector to account,” wrote THE.

Phakeng is the only African named on the list.

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