She silenced her critics and dragged UP into the new SA
Now the University of Pretoria's trailblazing vice-chancellor is off to shake up New Zealand
When Professor Cheryl de la Rey was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria close to nine years ago, many had reservations about her ability to steer her way through the racial and cultural tensions on campus.
Now she leaves a legacy of sweeping, courageous changes instituted on her watch, and ready to tackle the next challenge.
De la Rey, described as an “exceptional candidate”, has just been appointed as the new vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
She will take up her new post in mid-February next year and will replace Dr Rod Carr, who has served two five year terms.
De la Rey said she was honoured to be selected for the position.
“I look forward to using my skills and experience and to build on the good work of my predecessor,” she said.In a statement, the University of Canterbury's chancellor, Dr John Wood, said the university had undertaken a global recruitment process and had been thrilled with the calibre of a large pool of domestic and international applicants.
He said the vice-chancellor appointment committee, led by pro-chancellor Sue McCormack, made a recommendation to appoint De la Rey at a council meeting on May 21, which was accepted unanimously.
“Professor de la Rey is an exceptional candidate to lead the university. She has a significant international profile and a strong research reputation in her chosen field of psychology, and in research leadership and governance.
“She also brings extensive experience and demonstrated management ability from a range of tertiary education roles in South Africa, which I know she is looking forward to bringing to New Zealand.”He said she was known as a visionary strategic thinker and has a track record for opening university pathways to priority and less-able pupils.
“Her overall approach is a very good fit with the graduate attributes the university seeks to instill in all its students," he said.De la Rey has been at the helm of the University of Pretoria since November 2009.
University of Pretoria spokesperson Rikus Delport said that “it was was with sadness that the University of Pretoria takes note of the VC’s decision to step down in favour of a new role”.
“She has substantially delivered on the objectives she set out at the start of her tenure nine years ago. Under her capable leadership, the university has enhanced its academic stature, improved its international ranking, made significant strides in transforming its staff and student demographics, expanded and renewed its physical infrastructure and is in a sound financial position.”
One of the significant changes she has helped implement is that, from next year, English will be the medium of instruction in all first-year classes. This was much to the anger of AfriForum Youth and Solidarity, which lost their high court challenge to the university's language policy in 2016.