The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) incoming vice-chancellor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, has always loved maths, not least for the way that multiple solutions can be crafted for the same problem. The ability to recognise that there may be different ways to crack a challenging task is a skill on which she will need to draw deeply as she takes the reins from Max Price in July.UCT is under pressure from all sides in the wake of the Rhodes Must Fall protests, which began in 2015 as a campaign to remove the statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes from the campus. It led rapidly to a wider movement to "decolonise" education and make tertiary institutions more accessible to students from poor households.The instability led to an unprecedented exodus of top academics, and a sharp decline in revenue-generating foreign students. Throw in the impact of Cape Town’s devastating drought and she will clearly have her hands full.Phakeng (51) was the first black woman in SA to obtain a PhD in maths...

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