JIAS: Advancing Excellence and Diversity
The Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Studies (JIAS) promotes advanced research in the humanities and natural sciences, and is the city’s first fully fledged institute of its kind. JIAS is a joint initiative of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in South Africa, and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, and is based in an elegant Roman style building in Westdene, Johannesburg.
“New conversations start here”, says JIAS director, Professor Peter Vale. We are sitting in the Cartoon Room, one of the Institute’s conference spaces, its walls lined with the works of contemporary South African political cartoonists. “JIAS creates the conditions in which scholars can deliver cutting- edge interdisciplinary thought and research at the highest academic level”, he says. “This is a place to work, think, talk and deliberate, and the greatest luck of all was finding this property. It’s made all the difference because of its wonderfully conducive atmosphere. It’s like a little college in Oxford or Cambridge in the heart of an African city.” Built on a hillside, with playful concrete cherubs adorning its rooftops, the landmark JIAS building was formerly a guesthouse, and JIAS now uses it for conferences and workshops and accommodation for participants, visiting fellows and academics. The building also houses the JIAS staff offices. The accommodation is gracious; and there are shaded courtyards, generous lounges and libraries, conference spaces and a communal dining area. “Institutes for advanced studies have their early origins in monasteries”, explains Prof Vale. “The modern versions of institutes like these began with Princeton in the USA in the 1930s, when they
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