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University of Pretoria Welcomes Prof Francis Petersen as New Vice-Chancellor Starting October 2024

Professor Francis Petersen's Appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria

In a significant move for South Africa's higher education landscape, the University of Pretoria (UP) has appointed Professor Francis Petersen as its new Vice-Chancellor and Principal, effective October 1, 2024. The announcement marks a new chapter for the university, which is eager to leverage Prof Petersen's extensive experience and visionary leadership in continuing its trajectory of academic and research excellence.

A Leader with Proven Track Record

Prof Francis Petersen is no stranger to the demands and challenges of leading a major academic institution. Prior to his appointment at UP, he served as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Free State (UFS) since April 1, 2017. His tenure at UFS was marked by a focus on fostering an inclusive academic environment, driving innovation, and ensuring robust stakeholder engagement. In recognition of his effective leadership, he was reappointed for a second five-year term in 2022.

During his time at UFS, Prof Petersen led the university through numerous challenges, including steering it towards greater inclusivity and innovation. His approach emphasized the importance of collaboration among staff, students, and other stakeholders, a strategy that earned him widespread respect and made substantial strides in addressing social and academic issues. His success in navigating these complex dynamics undoubtedly positions him as a fitting leader for UP, a university equally committed to these values.

Gratitude and Reflection

Upon the announcement of his new role, Prof Petersen expressed profound gratitude to the UFS community. He acknowledged the dedication and hard work of the university’s staff, students, and stakeholders, attributing much of the institution's recent progress to their collective efforts. His departure from UFS is bittersweet, but it is marked by pride in the achievements realized together over the past six years. His sentiments underscore his leadership philosophy, which values community and collaboration above all else.

UP's Enthusiastic Welcome

The University of Pretoria has extended a warm welcome to Prof Petersen, expressing confidence in his capacity to guide the institution into a new era of distinction. Mary Papayya, Chair of the University Council, lauded his exemplary track record in higher education, noting that his leadership would bring continued progress and innovation to UP. The move is seen as a mutually beneficial arrangement, with UP poised to benefit from Prof Petersen's strategic vision and proven ability to drive institutional change.

Prof Petersen’s appointment comes at a pivotal time for UP, which, like many other educational institutions globally, is navigating the post-pandemic landscape. In his new role, he is expected to focus on further enhancing academic excellence, increasing research outputs, and fostering an inclusive and supportive campus environment. His experience in these areas makes him a valuable addition to the university's leadership team.

Filling Big Shoes

As Prof Petersen prepares to assume his new responsibilities at UP, the University of the Free State will need an interim leader to maintain its momentum. The UFS Council has committed to appointing an acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal to ensure seamless continuity until a permanent replacement is found. This transition period will be crucial for maintaining the stability and ongoing initiatives that Prof Petersen has spearheaded.

The search for a new permanent Vice-Chancellor at UFS will likely be rigorous, as the university seeks a leader who can build on the foundation laid by Prof Petersen. The criteria for his successor will undoubtedly include a strong focus on academic credentials, leadership skills, and the ability to navigate the complexities of a modern educational institution.

Guiding Vision for the Future

Prof Petersen’s imminent tenure at UP is anticipated to align with and further the university's strategic goals. His vision for spearheading academic excellence, combined with his experience in fostering partnerships and driving systemic change, is expected to yield considerable benefits. With Prof Petersen at the helm, UP is set to continue its tradition of being a premier institution of higher learning in South Africa and beyond.

The timing of this appointment signals UP’s commitment to forward-thinking leadership at a time when global education systems are undergoing rapid transformation. It underscores the university's dedication to staying at the forefront of academic and research advancements.

UP students, faculty, and stakeholders alike are looking forward to the fresh perspectives and initiatives that Prof Petersen will introduce. His proven track record suggests that his leadership style and strategic direction will invigorate the university community, inspiring new achievements in various academic and social spheres.


In conclusion, the University of Pretoria's decision to appoint Professor Francis Petersen as the new Vice-Chancellor and Principal is a forward-looking move that reflects trust in his leadership capabilities and vision for the future. As he prepares to take on this important role in October 2024, the university and broader academic community watch with anticipation, ready to support and collaborate with him for the continued success and growth of the institution.

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