Above: Inside Stellenbosch University’s library.

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath (48), Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), is the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning and Teaching at Stellenbosch University (SU). The SU Council appointed Ramjugernath in the position at its meeting on 21 September 2020.

He will take up the position on 1 January 2021.

A highly accomplished higher education executive with substantial management experience, Ramjugernath is a pre-eminent scientist in the field of chemical engineering and specifically in chemical thermodynamics and separation technology. Notably he served as the DST/NRF South African Research Chair (SARChI) for Fluorine Process Engineering and Separation Technology until 2018.

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, says: “We are delighted with this appointment. Prof Ramjugernath is an excellent candidate and well qualified to take over the reins from Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, who will be retiring at the end of the year. Higher education faces immense challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath.

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath.

“But, at the same time, exciting opportunities have opened up, and we look forward to exploring the new landscape of learning and teaching with Prof Ramjugernath at the helm.”

Ramjugernath studied at UKZN and obtained the degrees BSc Eng (Chemical) in 1993, MSc Eng (Chemical) that was upgraded to a PhD in 1995 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2000.

He has successfully graduated over 130 Masters and PhDs students, and supervised over 20 Postdoctoral fellows. Ramjugernath has published in excess of 350 peer-reviewed journal papers and has presented in excess of 300 papers at international conferences. He serves on the board of international journals and profession bodies, e.g. the International Association of Chemical Thermodynamics and the Journal of Chemical and Engineering Data.

Former positions also include Pro Vice-Chancellor: Innovation, Commercialisation & Entrepreneurship, Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and Head of the School of Chemical Engineering – all at UKZN.

He is a recipient of various national and international awards and a member of various industry and academic bodies, amongst others the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). 

Ramjugernath is passionate about human capacity development and is a strong believer in a collaborative approach to research capacity development. He holds well-developed views around utilising distance learning to transform the Higher Education market as a whole.

Says Ramjugernath: “I am very excited to join the ranks of one of the leading higher education institutions on the African continent. It is well managed, effectively governed, comparatively well resourced, and most importantly, has the vision as a higher education institution to uplift the lives of our people, and have significant socio-economic impact.”

“The Learning and Teaching executive portfolio at the institution is an integral and critical component of the university. It is essential that the portfolio is strategically led to effectively and efficiently deliver on its current mandate, but also to disrupt, enhance, and re-purpose itself as higher education evolves in a rapidly changing and challenging landscape, both nationally and globally.”

“As a nation we face many challenges with regard to social and economic upliftment of our citizens, and in moving the country to prosperity for all,” says Ramjugernath. “Universities need to play a more significant role in directly impacting society in terms of addressing these challenges – in contributing to social and economic development nationally, and by being leading global producers of knowledge. In order to achieve this, they have to be truly engaged and entrepreneurial, and there must be an unwavering focus on transformation with excellence.”

Engaging with society
“The values instilled in our students must assist them in effectively functioning and engaging with society at large and how they contribute to social cohesion and nation building”, adds Ramjugernath. “This is an integral aspect of the learning and teaching portfolio that speaks not just to the formal academic curriculum, but to the associated informal curriculum, and the entire student campus experience. With the current COVID-19 crisis, it is even more pronounced that the experience of our students, either virtually or physically, on our campuses will determine our very relevance as higher education institutions.”

“At the same time, in this age of rapid evolution in technology, with in some sectors technologies becoming obsolete within a period of 18 to 24 months, the higher education sector needs to follow suit in terms of evolving and utilizing the latest technology,” comments Ramjugernath. “Our curricula and programmes need to be continually updated and revised so that content and the outcomes ensure that our graduates are fit-for-purpose. This includes developing multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programmes that cater for the jobs of the future,” adding that “an emphasis on developing emotional intelligence, entrepreneurial skill-sets, and design thinking should be an integral part of student development, as well as teaching staff development. Experiential learning is an important component that has to be integrated into the curriculum to ensure graduates are fit-for-purpose and can hit the ground running”.

Prof Ramjugernath will succeed Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, who has reached the prescribed retirement age. He has served as Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching for eight years, preceded by 10 years as Dean of Engineering.

  – Stellenbosch University