6 Sep 15:30
- 17:00

Opening Academic Year 2021/2022

The theme of this year's Opening of the Academic Year is: 'Transforming Universities'.

Keynote Lecture

Mamokgethi Phakeng will provide this year’s keynote lecture. She is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and a professor of mathematics. In addition to a distinguished academic career, both as a researcher and as a leader, she is a critical thinker who has delivered keynote lectures and other crucial contributions at international conferences all over the world. She holds a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of Witwatersrand, an Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of Bristol, and has been awarded, among others, the titles of most influential woman academic in Africa and Businesswoman of the Year.

She has won numerous awards for her research and community work, including the Order of the Baobab conferred on her by the President of South Africa. In addition to being a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and the African Academy of Sciences, she serves as a board member on the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Among many other services to educational foundations, she is a trustee at the South African Student Solidarity Foundation for Education. She founded a non-profit organisation that provides financial and educational support to students from township and rural areas.

As a leader in higher education, Kgethi, as she is popularly known, has always been on the forefront of transformation in education, research and society.

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng will also speak at an event organised by our D&I Office on 7 September entitled Afternoon with a Game-Changer.


During the academic session in the afternoon, the winners of the Wynand Wijnen prize and the Student Award will be honoured. In addition, the Dissertation prize and Edmond Hunstinx prize will be awarded – these prizes were due to be awarded during the Dies Natalis 2020. However, because of the pandemic, all awards and honours were moved to the Opening of the Academic Year.

UM will bestow an honorary doctorate on Jaap van Dissel. This had already been decided early in 2020, in the run-up to the 45th Dies Natalis but, again, had to be postponed due to safety concerns around the pandemic.

Jaap van Dissel is professor of internal medicine at Leiden University, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), and chairman of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). He is to receive the honorary doctorate for his public role communicating scientific insights from his field around COVID-19 to policymakers and the public under very difficult circumstances.

Morning Programme

UM’s new strategic plan will be officially launched following the morning programme, during which an expert panel will discuss key aspects of UM’s vision for the future.

Professor Jaap van Dissel