A proud day for Ian Scott and a triumph for Academic Development work

02 May 2019
Em Prof Ian Scott
02 May 2019

11 April 2019 was a proud day for CHED and the Academic Development community in South Africa when the Chancellor of Rhodes University, the Honourable Justice Mpati, conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on Professor Ian Scott at one of the university’s graduation ceremonies. In the words of the university Public Orator, Distinguished Professor Paul Maylam, the degree recognises “one of South Africa’s foremost educationalists, who has undertaken groundbreaking work on curriculum reform, whose thinking has had a profound influence on South Africa’s educational policy, and who has committed himself over many decades to the development of a more just, equitable higher education system in our country”.

Working at the helm of Academic Support and Development programmes at UCT for over 30 years, and well into his retirement that started in 2014, Ian’s research and national policy work have always set the objective of making university studies more accessible to South Africa’s young people and of realistically improving their chances of success. Well ahead of his time, his work has from early on focused attention on structural issues in the higher education system that obstruct students’ chances of success. He furthermore insisted on basing his understanding of the higher education system and the need for structural change on extended analyses of actual student performance data. Drawing on findings from cohort studies performed with colleagues Jane Hendry and Nan Yeld in the mid 2000s, Ian advocated for changes to be made to the colonial curriculum structure inherited by South African universities, outlining in its place a ‘flexible’ pathway to qualification, responsive to the educational needs and material well-being of the vast majority of South African students’.

While clearly highlighting Ian’s

intellectual impact, the graduation ceremony also surfaced his deep humanity and warm collegiality. During his address to the Congregation, Ian acknowledged the contribution made by Academic Development units working all over the country, often under difficult circumstances and receiving little recognition. He expressed his gratitude to Rhodes University for not only honouring his own individual contribution, but that of all Academic Development colleagues. Then, turning his attention to Rhodes University’s new graduates, Ian praised their persistence and achievement. He mentioned the sad fact that only one in seven of South Africa’s youth make it into university and that only half of all entrants ever graduate. He explained that while this made the graduates’ achievement even more noteworthy, it also highlighted the huge need and opportunity for them to apply their knowledge, experience and integrity. Ian ended his address by urging graduates to ask themselves the question: “Given my own particular talents and circumstances, what can I do to make a difference?” The honorary doctorate conferred on Ian by Rhodes University clearly shows that he has responded to this challenge with a remarkable career that has impacted on thousands of lives. ADP and CHED are deeply proud of his achievement.


Written by A/Prof Ermien van Pletzen, Director: ADP, who attended the graduation ceremony of her predecessor, Em. Prof Ian Scott, at which he received his Honorary Doctorate.

Click here to hear an excerpt from the citation and to view the Doctor of Laws (LLB) honoris causa being conferred on Em Prof Ian Scott.   Click here to watch an excerpt of Ian's citation at the graduation ceremony.