Derrick Swartz has served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela University since 2008 to 2017.
Originally from Port Elizabeth, Prof Swartz began his working life as a high school teacher, community researcher, and project coordinator in the city’s northern areas. A strident anti-Apartheid activist, he helped build a network of youth community organisations in the region that led to the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
During the early 1990s he worked and studied in the United Kingdom, where he made significant contributions to thinking around democratic governance and the management of a post-apartheid civil service in South Africa. Prof Swartz has a BA degree from the University of the Western Cape, and MA and DPhil degrees in sociology from Essex University.
He is the former Vice-Chancellor and Principal at Fort Hare University, where he is credited for leading a profound turnaround strategy. He founded the Institute of Government in 1995 and served as Professor and Chair of Inter-Governmental Relations.
A sociologist by training, Prof Swartz has played a leading role in transformation and change management in South African higher education in recent years and has actively contributed to change in South African society on a wide front. He was a member of a presidential review commission appointed by then President Nelson Mandela and has served on several boards and public trusts and as a board member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
His areas of special interests are the role of universities in the economy, the philosophy of science, and the developmental role of higher education.