THE JOHANNESBURG Institute for Advanced Studies (JIAS) was launched on 14 May 2015 via a founding meeting, a plaque unveiling ceremony, and a panel discussion featuring local and visiting scholars from the founding institutions, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The day’s events start with the founding meeting, held at the JIAS premises in Westdene, Johannesburg, and jointly chaired by Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg; and Professor Bertil Andersson, president of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore.

Other participants included Professor K K Phua, director of the NTU Institute for Advanced Study; Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Postgraduate Studies & Library) at UJ; Dr Yu-Hyun Park of the President’s Office at the NTU, and Professor Peter Vale, director of JIAS. This was followed by a launch and plaque unveiling ceremony at the JIAS premises in Westdene.

Keynote address

In a keynote address at the plaque unveiling ceremony, Prof Rensburg said the establishment of JIAS illustrated the university’s determination to become a ‘pan-African epicentre of critical and intellectual enquiry’.

While scholars would be left to pursue their own ends and interests, JIAS would be expected to deliver work ‘of the highest creative order’, that would deepen understandings of issues across every sphere of knowledge.

Let me sharpen the point: the standard we expect from this initiative is a gold standard, and we will make no apology for the fact that we will try to populate as much of its activities as possible with Nobel Laureates and, in the humanities, Holberg Prize Winners,’ Prof Rensburg said.

He added that JIAS would also seek to forge partnerships with other institutions of higher education in Gauteng and elsewhere in the country.

Panel discussion

A panel discussion featuring local and visiting scholars was held at UJ later the same day. Entitled ‘The Next 25 Years’, it comprised discussions of the following themes:

  • ‘The University’, introduced by Prof Bertil Anderson of NTU;
  • ‘The Environment’, introduced by Prof Alexander Zehnder of NTU;
  • ‘Complexity and Anthropocene’, introduced by Prof Stephen Lansing of NTU;
  • ‘Society’, introduced by Prof Achille Mbemwe of Wits University;
  • ‘Engineering’ introduced by Prof Saurabh Sinha of UJ; and
  • ‘Equality / Inequality, introduced by Prof Fiona Tregenna, also of UJ.