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Top 100 Dutch University awards honorary professorship to SU Dean Prof Ingrid Woolard
Author: Aamirah Sonday
Published: 12/06/2024

​​​​Professor Ingrid Woolard, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) was recently awarded an honorary professorship from the University of Groningen (UG) in the Netherlands.

University of Groningen (UG) in the Netherlands

A first for a Stellenbosch University academic

​As honorary professor, Prof Woolard will take on the role of chair in “The Economics of Poverty and Inequality” within the Department of Economics, Econometrics and Finance (in the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)) for five years. In this role, she will contribute to research on poverty and inequality, postgraduate supervision and occasionally to teaching. She will also be responsible for strengthening research and education cooperation between FEB and the EMS faculty.  

While this is an honorary position, Prof Woolard had to interview for the position and receiving the honorary professorship from a top 100 global university came as a surprise, “When the Dean of FEB from Groningen approached me about the application, I was speechless, I really didn’t expect it. 

“SU is embarking on a new strategic partnership with the University of Groningen. As the first Stellenbosch academic to be awarded an honorary professorship there, this is a massive honour and responsibility”. 

But this means more than professional recognition for Prof Woolard, “For me it is particularly special because my grandmother studied at Groningen more than 100 years ago, so there is a personal connection between me and this position. 

“The first female student, Aletta Jacobs, was enrolled at Groningen in 1871 - there are wonderful tributes to her all over the UG campus. By the turn of the 20th century female students were still very rare. My Ouma had to work incredibly hard to be allowed to attend university – including teaching herself Greek and Latin in order to write the entrance exams – so for me to now be a professor there means a lot to me”.  
Stellenbosch in Groningen - 7 - 11 April 2024

Part of the requirements for the role was that the individual be “seen as an international authority on poverty and inequality.” 

Prof Woolard, the first female dean of the EMS faculty, has published extensively on poverty and inequality, social protection and redistributive fiscal policy. She sits on the FEB board, is a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labour based in Bonn, a Senior Research Associate at the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki, a Research Associate of the Commitment to Equity Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and Board Member of the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) in Kenya.  

In addition to undertaking research and writing joint research funding proposals, Prof Woolard will be required to give at least one lecture a year on poverty and inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Groningen are very interested in that aspect given that most poverty today is in Africa; global solutions to African poverty are front and centre in the policy agenda and students need to be aware of these debates” she shared. 

Opportunities for collaboration

While the position is an honour for Prof Woolard, it also provides great opportunities for collaboration throughout the university. Several students within the faculty are already studying at UG. SU is one of nine strategic partners of UG: “they’ve been very intentional of who they partner with,” she said.  

“We understand that we really need to invest in this relationship as this is a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with a top global university. I believe that this Chair is one of the ways of ensuring that we collaborate on research grants and that we work hard on the research aspects of the relationship. 

“One place that we are hoping to see a deep collaboration is in the School of Accountancy. For us, this is very valuable: we have many Accountancy colleagues wanting to pursue PhDs and at the moment we do not have the necessary supervisory capacity, but Groningen is being extremely collaborative in terms of the PhDs. It is a really important relationship for us to have.” 

The Stellenbosch Business School also currently has several students at UG and a joint winer school in development finance. Talks are also underway about a joint Master's in development economics between UG and SU.  
Stellenbosch in Groningen - Casual chats

Beyond SU

Given that the focus of the chair is the economics of poverty and inequality, in SSA, the potential impact of Prof Woolard’s new role extends beyond the walls of SU.  

Research on inequality and poverty, especially in Africa is crucial as there has been a notable increase in the poverty rate on the continent; Africa’s vulnerability to climate change which directly impacts poverty and inequality and; a burgeoning African population which underscores the importance of finding mitigating actions to rising levels of poverty and inequality.  

UG is also a co-lead on the Cluster of Research Excellence in Inequalities, Poverty, and Deprivation (CoRE IPD) initiative, with the goal of pioneering a novel approach to equitable collaboration and capacity building. 
Stellenbosch in Groningen - Dean Ingrid Woolard, capped

"This is a very strong platform from which to source research funding. I think if you have this really powerful network that is doing world-class research on poverty, inequality and deprivation; there is potential for deep ground-breaking work. 

“I think we’ve focused quite a bit on measurement, so we have a good handle on the magnitude of the problem, but now we need to turn to solutions. What are those actual mechanisms to turn the tide? 

“This Chair and partnership will allow us to build on these networks, secure funding, and hopefully truly turn our research into actionable mechanisms to decrease poverty and inequality across the continent.”