Max became involved in student and anti-apartheid politics and activism during his student years and this experience shaped his whole career. It led to his choosing to study politics and economics after completing medicine, and to his subsequent focus on public health, health policy and to his leadership roles in higher education.
Following his training as a doctor in South Africa, and his further education at Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Max's career has essentially had three phases - each between 8 and 11 years.
The first was in health policy research as an academic in health economics at the LSHTM, then as senior research and later director of the Centre for Health Policy at Wits University. This phase overlapped with South Africa's transition from Apartheid to democracy. Max was extensively involved with preparing for post-Apartheid health policy, including working with the African National Congress in exile. The first Minister of Health appointed him to chair the Ministerial Committee on Health Care Financing in 1994 and he was a member of Ministerial Committee on National Health Insurance in 1995.
The second phase of Max's career was as dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (previously known as the medical school) of the University of the Witwatersrand, colloquially known as Wits. He was appointed to this position at the relatively young age of 40 and held the post for over 10 years. The faculty had taken a risk by appointing as dean someone with unconventional credentials for such a post - not being a senior academic and head of department, not being from the clinical disciplines, and not being near retirement. It signalled a desire on the part of the Faculty, when it made its selection just a year after South Africa's first democratic elections, for leadership that would understand the political moment and facilitate the changes that would be needed in health sciences education and research. Read more
The third phase, from 2008 to 2018, was as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT). During the decade of his stewardship UCT consistently ranked in the top 200 universities globally in the Times Higher Education rankings and the top university in Africa in almost all ranking systems.
His key concerns and achievements at UCT were the growth of the university's research output, impact and profile, the consolidation of international partnerships in research and student mobility, the transformation of the admissions policy to increase students from disadvantaged background, and other interventions to change the institutional culture of UCT. He contributed significantly to the fundraising success of the university over this period.
In the years 2015 to 2016, the university experienced a challenging, often traumatic series of student and worker protests which were part of a national protest movement. The two key issues were the demand for free education (#FeesMustFall) and secondly decolonisation and transformation (#RhodesMustFall). The protests have also paralleled similar student movement protests around the world relating to identity politics, LGBTIQA+ rights and recognition, gender based violence, and issues of disability and mental health. A third issue was union demands for outsourced workers to be re-insourced. As Vice-Chancellor, his leadership of the university management’s approach to the protests generated criticism and praise from many sides.
Dr Price played a prominent role nationally in engaging government and the public on the various issues including proposals for fees and financial aid, debates on statues and art and building names that reflected the colonial legacy, institutional racism, in-sourcing labour, and the boundaries of legitimate protest and use of police and security on campus.