Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala Begins Term as United Nations University Rector

The United Nations University (UNU) is pleased to announce that Rector Tshilidzi Marwala of South Africa has today assumed office for a five-year term

In this role, Prof. Marwala holds the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. He is based at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo.

The selection of Prof. Marwala as the seventh Rector of UNU, to succeed Dr David M. Malone of Canada (UNU Rector from 1 March 2013 to 28 Feb. 2023), was officially announced by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in July 2022. As stipulated by the UNU Charter, Prof. Marwala was selected from a panel of candidates nominated by the governing UNU Council and appointed by the UN Secretary-General in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Director-General of UNESCO.

Prof. Marwala comes to UNU from the University of Johannesburg, where he had served as Vice-Chancellor and Principal (2018‒2023), Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalization (2013–2017), and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (2009–2013). Prior to that (2003‒2008), he taught at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). See below for a brief profile of Prof. Marwala.

The outgoing Rector, Dr David M. Malone, said of his successor: "I am delighted to be succeeded by such a distinguished university leader and inspiring scholar, and I wish him a future at UNU as happy as mine has been."

The United Nations University, established in 1975, is a global research and training organisation with institutes and programmes in 12 countries. UNU focuses on research, training, and policy-relevant advisory services. As a think tank of the United Nations system, UNU maintains close relationships with other United Nations system entities and leading research institutions. The Charter of UNU provides that its research shall be devoted to "the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations".

On behalf of the governing Council of the United Nations University, Council Chair Prof. ‘Funmi Olonisakin welcomed the new Rector, saying: "The Council looks forward to working closely with Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala to take UNU to the next stage, building on the excellent work of Dr David Malone."

For more information, or to request an interview with UNU Rector Tshilidzi Marwala, journalists may contact UNU Head of Communications Kyra Bowman ( or Japan Communications Specialist Yukiko Nakahari (


Brief Profile of UNU Rector Tshilidzi Marwala

Prior to taking up the role of UNU Rector on 1 March 2023, Prof. Marwala served as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (South Africa) from January 2018 through February 2023. He had previously served as that university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalization (2013–2017) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (2009–2013).

From 2003‒2008, Prof. Marwala progressively held the positions of Associate Professor and Full Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa); from 2001‒2003 he was Executive Assistant to the Technical Director at South African Breweries; and from 2000‒2001) he was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Imperial College (then University of London).

Prof. Marwala has been a visiting scholar/professor at universities in the USA, the UK, China, and South Africa. He has extensive academic, policy, management, and international experience, and is a co-holder of five patents. His research has been multi-disciplinary, involving the theory and applications of artificial intelligence to engineering, social science, economics, politics, finance, and medicine. He has served on a variety of global and national policymaking bodies, and has worked with such United Nations entities as UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, and WIPO.

He holds a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge (UK), a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), and a Bachelor of Science degree (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University (USA). He also completed management and leadership programmes at the Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School.

Prof. Marwala is, inter alia, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Academy of Science of South Africa, and the African Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Marwala is the author of more than 20 books, including Leadership Lessons from Books I Have Read (2021) and Leading in the 21st Century: The Call for a New Type of African Leader (2021); dozens of book chapters, journal papers, and conference papers; and more than 200 magazine articles and newspaper op-eds.

Among the awards that Prof. Marwala has received are the Order of Mapungubwe (South Africa’s highest honour) and the Academy of South Africa’s Science-for-Society Gold Medal. He was named the 2021 IT Personality of the Year by the Institute of IT Professionals South Africa.

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