Prof Jonathan Jansen spoke to The Journalist about stepping down as Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State (UFS). A statement released yesterday, by Council Chairperson, Judge Ian van der Merwe, announced that Jansen, who has been with the university since 1 July 2009, will be taking up an invitation as a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in the USA later this year. His term at the UFS will come to an end in August.

Prof Jonathan Jansen has resigned from UFS with ‘mixed emotions’. Speaking to The Journalist, Jansen said that there is “great joy and satisfaction at what we have achieved, and sadness, almost a sense of grieving, at leaving my students and staff whom I have come to love and live for over seven years.”

He said the university still has a long way to go. “While much has been achieved, much remains to be done and this will be the task of the new leadership team. But I leave without regrets and with a sense of fulfilment and also optimism for the future of the UFS.”

Council Chairperson, Judge Ian van der Merwe has thanked the outgoing Rector. “On behalf of the Council and the entire university community, I thank [Jansen] for his contributions as a capable, energetic and dedicated leader and wish him the best for his future,” said van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe announced yesterday that Jansen will take up an invitation as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in the USA in September 2016. “The fellowship, which was awarded to him earlier this year, is an opportunity for him to further advance his career as an internationally renowned academic in education. Prof Jansen’s departure is a great loss for the university, but the Council accepts his decision to step down and pursue his academic career as well as other opportunities,” said Van der Merwe.

The Council thanked him for the vision and the inspirational leadership he had provided during his tenure at the UFS. “He has led the university through difficult and complex times – from after the Reitz incident up until the recent student protest action,” he said. “He brought stability and respect for the university – nationally as well as internationally.”

He was instrumental in the improvement of student success and graduation rates, the increase in the percentage of academic staff with doctoral qualifications, the increase in research outputs, the growth in staff diversity, and the growth in third-stream income, he said.

Jansen had recently come under fire from students at the Bloemfontein based university following the Shimla Park incident which saw rugby supporters violently beat up protesting students and workers who had interrupted a rugby match to draw attention to the end outsourcing movement. At the time, students called for him to step down.

The spokesperson of the Workers and Students Forum (WSF) student activist, Trevor Shaku, who was instrumental in organising the protests that saw the university shut down earlier this year, said they had not yet discussed the matter of Jansen’s resignation within the organisation, however he offered comment on the move in his personal capacity.

“We have maintained before that we will not concern ourselves with who will lead the university,” said Shaku. “We are not going to preoccupy ourselves with [Jansen’s] resignation.”

“What we are looking for is that whoever leads the university must take into consideration the demands and rights of students and workers. That is what we are concerned about. We are not sure whether the person who may come to replace Jansen will be better in any way,” said Shaku.

This morning the SRC welcomed Jansen’s resignation announcement.

Prof Jansen was appointed as Vice-Chancellor and Rector on 1 July 2009. His term of office was extended for another five years on 1 July 2014. In the event that the position is not filled by the end of August 2016, Prof Nicky Morgan, current Vice-Rector: Operations at the UFS, will act as Vice-Chancellor and Rector.