College of Human Sciences

Executive Dean

Meet the new Dean of the College of Human Sciences

Prof. Andrew Phillips

Professor Andrew Phillips is the new Executive Dean of the College of Human Sciences. With a long list of qualifications and achievements, together with his tenure as Director for the School of Humanities in the College, Professor Phillips, brings to the position a wealth of experience. 

Q: Introduce us to Andrew Phillips, the Professor?

A: I completed my BA, BTh (cum laude), and Licentiate in Theology (cum laude) at the University of the Western Cape. I received a British Council Scholarship and completed a MTh degree at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. A Visiting Fellowship enabled me to do research for my doctoral degree at Princeton Theological Seminary. I obtained my DTh degree (UWC) under the supervision of Professor Dirkie Smit. My areas of specialisation are Social Ethics, Liturgy and Social Ethics and Worship as Formation. I am on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Practical Theology of Southern Africa, Reviewer for the NRF and Programme Reviewer for the CHE. I am a member of Societas Homiletica and the International Reformed Theological Institute (University of Amsterdam). I have been in academia for 32 years. I lectured at UWC, Huguenot College and the Northern Theological Seminary. I joined the Department of Practical Theology at Unisa in 2002.

Q: How do you feel about your appointment as Executive Dean of the College?

A: I feel excited and humbled to have been appointed as the Executive Dean. I am thankful for the trust which the Management and Council of Unisa have placed in me. It is a great opportunity which carries with it great responsibility. Leading and managing a college the size of the CHS with its close to 50 000 students and 700 staff members is a daunting task. Fortunately I will be leading and managing the CHS with a college management team and staff who are   dedicated, experienced and hardworking and have shown over the years that they are totally committed to Unisa’s vision and mission.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most?

A: Working with exceptional scholars and support staff who through their expertise have the ability to enhance the reputation of Unisa as an institution of academic excellence. The CHS and its staff are resources which must be used to address the reality of Africa and the global challenges which we are faced with. The position of Executive Dean makes it possible for me to ensure that the CHS makes a significant contribution to the prosperity of South Africa and Africa as part of the global community.

Q: What plans do you have in place for the College?

A: The students during their protests have demanded decolonised education. The CHS has been leading the debate about decoloniality in South Africa since 2011 through its Summer School on Decoloniality. The demand for a decolonised education is a demand for the transformation of the curriculum.

The CHS in the next three years will work towards the transformation of the curriculum. The end result should be a decolonised curriculum informed by our African reality and addressing the challenges faced by Africans.  It is only by developing a curriculum which is authentic African that the CHS will be globally relevant and contribute meaningfully to the academic discourse globally.

The CHS will also be investing more resources into bridging the distance between lecturer and learners. Different departments in the CHS have started initiatives that will do this. One of the promising initiatives in collaboration with Google is what Prof Danie du Plessis calls, “Face to Face at a distance”. This and other similar initiatives in the CHS will be used in order to increase the value of the learning experience for our students.

Research has always been one of the strengths of the CHS. The number of Black researchers has increased significantly over the past few years. The CHS, however, still has a disproportionate number of researchers who are over the age of 50 years and who will soon retire. To replace this ageing cohort of researchers it is important that we invest in and develop new and young academics. The existing mentorship programmes in the CHS should be strengthened and more opportunities for these young academics to share their research at national and international forums will be created. We will be revisiting our current funding models in the CHS in order to develop and support our young academics without disadvantaging our established researchers.

Q: How do you plan to build on the legacy of former Executive Dean, Professor Rosemary Moeketsi?

A: Professor Moeketsi’s legacy in the CHS includes among others the Africa Speak series, the Summer School on Decoloniality, the Young Academics Programme and the Mentorship programme. These programmes and projects are CHS programmes and we will strengthen them and increase their reach. The greatest legacy of Professor Moeketsi, according to me, is that she was an enabler. She had been successful in creating the necessary space for the staff of the CHS to be confident in their own abilities to grow and excel as scholars and as support staff. While one can count the number of projects which Professor Moeketsi has left behind, her legacy is more than just projects and cannot be measured.

As Executive Dean of the CHS I view myself as first among equals. As such I have a responsibility to lead by being a servant of Unisa, always available to my colleagues and always creating an enabling environment for them to flourish. It should always be our aim to enhance the standing of Unisa as an institution of excellence by the quality of our scholarship, the quality leadership and governance of the CHS and our contribution to society and the world.

Q: Why is this College important for the country and continent?

A: The vision of Unisa is to be the African university shaping futures in the service of humanity. This vision is also the vision of the CHS. The quality of scholarship as well as the academic programmes which we offer makes the CHS, as a leader in the transformation of higher education, uniquely positioned to address the challenges which our education, our society and world are facing. The CHS should not only solve problems and challenges which our society are faced with currently but also anticipate challenges and problems which our societies and world will face in the future. Our uniquely qualified academics, our commitment to a decolonised curriculum and research which address in a relevant and authentic way our African context should make us a beacon of hope to our society, continent and the world.

Q: Please describe Andrew Phillips outside of academia? 

A: Andrew is an African, and a son of Xaba, a small area in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape.  In this unknown and unimpressive place I have learned and experienced classism, racism, patriarchy, poverty and have seen how people were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. I have also seen how important it is to be part of a community and how the aspirations and hope of a community can triumph over despair. I have learned that I am not because I think but I am because I belong.  I have played cricket and rugby and I am a passionate supporter of the national rugby, cricket and soccer teams. I think of myself as a person who is solution driven and not fixated on problems. I love to visit nature reserves and visit the Kruger National Park at least twice a year. I am married to Magaret and we have two sons and two grandchildren.

Q: Are there any philosophies or inspirational messages you would like to conclude with?

A: The decoloniality and Africanisation projects are very important for the future of South Africa, Africa and the world. We as CHS must let the world hear our authentic African voices. We as an African university and CHS have a contribution to make to international scholarship. We should not speak as ventriloquists but as authentic African voices. The quote from Steve Biko, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” is as true today as it was when he said it decades ago as is the African proverb, “Borrowed water does not quench your thirst” which we should ensure informs our efforts to transform the curriculum.