Phakeng has been appointed the new vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT). Outgoing vice-chancellor Max Price announced Phakeng's appointment last month.
Speaking about her appointment, Phakeng said she would ensure that what is one of the most difficult jobs in South Africa would start off on a positive note for her.
“The job of a vice-chancellor in South Africa is not an easy task, it is probably much harder than being the Bafana-Bafana coach,” she quipped.
While she will officially take on the vice-chancellor position in July, Phakeng said she already has an idea of how she would tackle issues and day-to-day activities at the institution.
“As soon as I take over, we will have a proper direction of teaching and learning and where we will be taking research.
"UCT does not just reside here, we have sites in Khayelitsha, Philippi and George and so on," she said.
"The presence of the university is there but not visible and that limits its impact; one of the things we will be doing is to strengthen it, it is also part of the inclusivity agenda.
“It's important to include our communities because we are an African university, we are not an ivory tower a select few can access.
"I firmly believe in the idea of being part of the society that we serve, because then we know how to serve the society.
"We are here to serve the society we are located in and that is what will give us the edge.”
Phakeng said the involvement of local communities was key to the success of the institution. “If they are included, they can protect the place and all that happens to it," she said.
"Our vision is to be inclusive and engaged; you cannot do much with people that feel marginalised and feel like visitors.
"Those initiatives that help us make it more inclusive will continue, in the symbols, curriculum and structures of the university.”
While she hopes to run a more inclusive university, Phakeng also hopes to maintain UCT's ranking as Africa’s number one university. She said UCT continued to attract a lot of funders for research, and she hopes the university will continue with its groundbreaking research.