Transforming education in Africa: The University of Johannesburg and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and it will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of our lives. To understand it, one needs to understand the history of industrial revolutions.”

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg

South Africa is going through tremendous change. This country needs excellent leaders to steer us to a prosperous future that advances everyone. To effectively lead, knowledge is crucial and therefore education is important. If you do not know, you cannot lead. At the University of Johannesburg (UJ), we are committed to creating the conditions for you to become one of these inspirational and effective leaders.

Our main priority is progressive academic and intellectual development and to ultimately shape a graduate who is fully equipped to join the world of work both locally and abroad. Our vision is to educate you to be effective participants in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) where technology is changing all aspects of our lives, including in our homes and workplaces.

The 4IR requires that we evolve higher education. Modern universities started as elite institutions owned by religious institutions. During the first and the second industrial revolutions, many universities were formed to bring higher education to the masses. We are in an era in which higher education is democratising because all the materials that one can learn from universities are online, in both text and video formats and can be accessed free of charge if one has a computer and internet.

So, how will the 4IR change the university curriculum? Given all these developments, how do we orientate our universities so that they are able to thrive in this era? Firstly, universities need to produce graduates and knowledge that are relevant to this era. Because of the convergence of humans and machines in the 4IR, the education that we offer should be multidisciplinary and that is UJ’s main thrust.

At UJ, you will encounter the finest academic minds from countries across the globe and you will also get to choose from a huge selection of cutting-edge programs, from undergraduate diplomas to doctoral degrees in our eight faculties. Technology-rich approaches, which compare favourably to the best universities in the world, are used in teaching and learning.

UJ’s global stature and academic robustness are recognised by the most prestigious global higher education ranking systems in the world. The QS World University Rankings® placed UJ within the Top 2.3% of universities globally; Times Higher Education listed UJ among the Top 150 Young University Rankings; and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranked UJ among the Top 500 universities globally and fourth in South Africa.

In addition, UJ is the only African university to have been accorded the honour of membership of U21, an elite consortium of 26 global universities from every continent, most of which are placed in the top 100 in the world. This membership connects us to the very best in global higher education. UJ is a young, dynamic university and our graduates are leaving their mark in our country, continent and beyond.

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala is vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg. From 2013 to 2017 he was deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, and 2009 to 2013, executive dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. He has progressively held the positions of associate professor, professor, the Carl and Emily Fuchs Chair of Systems and Control Engineering as well as the SARChI Chair of Systems Engineering at the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. From 2001 to 2003, he was executive assistant to the technical director at South African Breweries. Professor Marwala was a postdoctoral research associate at Imperial College, holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University, and a PhD specialising in Artificial Intelligence and Engineering from the University of Cambridge. He completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) at Columbia University Businesses School in 2017, and a Program for Leadership Development (PLD) at Harvard Business School in 2007.