The Council of Stellenbosch University (SU) held its fourth and final scheduled meeting of the year on Monday 26 November 2018.
We can look back on a historic year marked by two very special milestones: the commemoration of SU's establishment 100 years ago, and the approval of a new vision and strategic framework that lays the foundation for the future.
As pointed out by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, in his report (click here), 2018 has so far been another exceptional year for SU, even though it had its share of challenges. Council is satisfied that the University is on course to become Africa's leading research-intensive university, globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, where we advance knowledge in service of society – as SU's new vision indeed states.
At Monday's meeting, Council approved the University's budget for 2019, including adjustments to staff remuneration and student fees. We also adopted a revised Statute and approved an updated Institutional Plan and faculty renewal plans. In addition, we welcomed a new Council member and bid farewell to another.
Please read on for more about these issues as well as other decisions and agenda items.
All of the best with the final tasks of 2018. Do enjoy the upcoming break and return safely for the first year of our second century!
Chair: SU Council
At the recommendation of its Executive Committee (EC[C]), Council approved the University's integrated budget for 2019 and financial planning for the period 2020 to 2024. Salient aspects include the following:
Study fees will increase by 5,3% (and not 7% as initially planned, since the latest projected increase in the state subsidy for 2019 seems sufficient to enable SU to adhere to the request of the Department of Higher and Education and Training [DHET] to restrict the increase to the consumer price index).
Student accommodation fees will increase by 7,3% (in light of the higher cost drivers associated with student housing).
Staff remuneration will increase by 6,3% for those who achieved a performance score of 3 or more in the 2018 assessment cycle (being an inflation-linked adjustment).
Faculty allocations will continue as agreed with the respective faculties. The 10% cap on reserves in SU environments will be implemented in the first half of 2019.
In light of the additional state subsidy, SU's total integrated budget amounts to R6,3 billion. Council has noted the additional state funding with appreciation, but has also expressed concern over the persistent uncertainty and financial risks in the higher education sector.
The approval of the budget is subject to final confirmation of the state subsidy for 2019. Therefore, Council has agreed for the Rector and the chair and deputy chair of Council to approve any budget amendments that may arise from the confirmation of the state subsidy, following consultation with the chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. However, in the event of a significant deviation, Council itself will need to consider any amendments to the budget.
Faculty renewal plans
Council approved the final renewal plans for the faculties of Education as well as Arts and Social Sciences, and was pleased to note that these faculties had improved their financial and systemic sustainability since 2016, when challenges were identified. Council also conveyed its appreciation to Prof Hester Klopper, Vice-Rector: Strategy and Internationalisation, who had been heading up the renewal process. Monthly steering committee meetings were held in both faculties, and many recommendations have already been implemented to good effect.
Highlights of the final renewal plans are as follows.
A new dean will be appointed by the envisaged target date of 1 July 2019. (Prof Johan Malan is currently serving as acting dean following an earlier decision by the Rectorate to put the appointment process on hold while renewal was being planned.)
The Department of Sport Science will be moving to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, which has proven a better fit due to developments in the discipline over the past few years.
Steps that are already paying dividends include:
curbing expenditure on low-income modules;
support to improve M and D student throughput;
reviewing the financial model of the Centre for Higher and Adult Education;
commercialisation of educational psychology; and
support to increase publication outputs, where necessary.
Arts and Social Sciences
Commercialisation of the Adam Small Theatre Complex
Improvement of the pipeline from M to D degrees
Making the Conservatoire and other spaces centrally available
The renewal or phasing out of identified programmes
Steps that are already paying dividends include:
the discontinuation of deficit spending;
the cutting of costs;
an increase in study fees for certain programmes – already from 2018;
extensive academic programme renewal;
the consolidation of undergraduate modules; and
no intake for master's programmes with fewer than 10 student enrolments.
Council requested progress reports for its meeting on 25 September 2019.
For the sake of financial sustainability, the University's indirect cost recovery rate (ICRR) on third-stream revenue will be increased from 17% to 20% now that Council has adopted a revised policy in this regard at the recommendation of the Institutional Forum and Senate. A task team led by Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies (VR:RIPS), had been systematically reviewing the previous policy since December 2016. Stakeholders were widely consulted and various workshops held.
As was the case until now, the new rate of 20% will apply to all gross income from research (whether with or without a contract), consulting services, sponsorships, conferences and short courses. The arrangement with regard to equipment also remains in place, namely that only the first R1 million in external funding for equipment purchases is subject to the ICRR.
In terms of sponsored research chairs, the ICRR on academics' salaries remains at only 10%, although the normal rate will apply to the other staff costs and current expenditure of the chair. The ICRR on seconded positions is also retained at 10%.
No ICRR is levied on merit prizes, bursary funding or bona fide donations made via SU's Development Office. Also exempt from the ICRR are the membership fees that sport clubs receive from SU students, as well as printing fees and textbook sales via the Division for Student Fees.
State funding in the form of subsidies or earmarked awards qualifies as first-stream revenue and is therefore not subject to the ICRR. The ICRR does however apply to all other state funding, like any other third-stream revenue. Nevertheless, SU will continue to honour the restrictions imposed on indirect cost recovery by certain funding agencies.
In terms of national legislation on intellectual property, indirect cost recovery on third-stream revenue is compulsory for institutions receiving public funds. It is applicable to indirect costs such as legal services, financial services, human resource services, research services, information technology services, library services, corporate communication services, banking costs and audit fees, as well as assistance with intellectual property.
Of the indirect costs so recovered, 72% is channelled to the main budget, 27% to the faculty or other environment where the third-stream revenue is generated, and 1% to the research fund in the NINS responsibility centre (RC).
The new policy will take effect on 1 January 2019, with the next review in three years' time.
Institutional Plan 2019–2024
An updated version of SU's Institutional Plan (IP) must be submitted to the DHET by 15 December each year. The IP covers a rolling six-year period, which in this instance will be 2019–2024. Prof Klopper presented this year's update to Council, who approved it.
The updated IP is aligned with SU's new Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024, which Council adopted in June. Certain aspects of the new framework that are still work in progress, such as strategic management indicators, will be incorporated into the next plan (IP 2020).
The drafting of the IP started in October. The process was simplified thanks to greater alignment between the environmental plans of RCs and faculties, the new strategic framework and the IP.
Learning and Teaching report
At this Council meeting, it was the turn of the Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching (VR:L&T), Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, to report on activities in his RC over the past year. Click here for his full report (which also served before Senate on 23 November), and here for a shortened presentation.
Prof Schoonwinkel pointed out the linkages between the strategic focuses of his RC and SU's vision and strategic framework adopted in June. All six of SU's new core strategic themes are being promoted. Highlights include the following:
Transformative student experience
This year, SU paid out R500 million in undergraduate bursaries and loans, of which R114 million came from its own main budget, and 68% went to black African, coloured, Indian and Asian (BCIA) students.
Access is being broadened, while success is also being maintained. According to the DHET, SU has the second-lowest dropout rate (8% compared to the national average of 15%) and the highest throughput rate (84% compared to an average of 66%) of all universities in SA.
Networked and collaborative teaching and learning
SU's project for implementing ICT in learning and teaching, which amounts to R358 million, is entering its fifth year. On Stellenbosch campus, 232 classrooms (83%) of all classrooms have now been equipped with WiFi, with sufficient bandwidth to access knowledge sources online.
Research for impact
Purposeful partnerships and inclusive networks
In 2018, SU's telematic schools project reached around 1 000 schools in eight provinces with supplementary curricular support for Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners. This improves matric pass rates and broadens university access.
Employer of choice
A thriving SU
Revenue from learning and teaching accounts for more than 80% of SU's main budget.
Thanks to its academic reputation, SU attracts top students. Eight out of ten of our new first-time entry students this year had achieved a Grade 12 average of more than 70%.
Revised Statute adopted
Council has adopted a revised Statute for Stellenbosch University (SU), which will now be tabled to the Minister of Higher Education for approval. The document is the product of an extensive consultative process that started in August 2017. A task team led by the Registrar, Dr Ronel Retief, collaborated with experts to review the Statute, which was also made available for comment during a month-long public participation process. A total of 12 workshops took place, and such stakeholders such as faculty boards, the Students' Representative Council and the executive committee of the Convocation were also consulted. A Reading Committee of Council, convened by the Law Faculty's Prof Sandra Liebenberg, advised on such aspects as the structure, content and applicability of the revised Statute. Adv Andrew Breitenbach SC certified that the document complied with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996) and the Higher Education Act (1997). The sixth version of the new Statute was finally recommended by the Institutional Forum (IF), Senate as well as the Executive Committee (EC[C]) and the Social and Business Ethics Committee (SBC) of Council. The existing Statute will remain in force until the Minister has approved and published the revised document in the Government Gazette.
Language Committee of Council
Council received feedback from its Language Committee, who had perused the VR:L&T's report on the implementation of the University's Language Policy. Responsibility centres and faculties had all contributed to the report.
Council's Language Committee also expressed its appreciation for the activities hosted to mark Language Day at the University on 28 September.
At the recommendation of its Language Committee, Council adopted the faculties' reports on their utilisation of the language modes in 2018. The chair of the Language Committee, Adv Jean Meiring, noted that, in general, very few language implementation complaints had been received from staff and students, and that implementation seemed to be relatively trouble-free. Another noteworthy trend is that an increasing number of students seem to prefer being taught in English.
Faculties' language implementation plans for 2019 were also adopted, on the condition that Council members would be supplied with the details of the language mode for each module. In addition, Council approved the RCs' 2018 language reports and 2019 language implementation plans.
Finally, Council approved recommendations on further language surveys in addition to the two conducted in 2017. These include a recommended language survey to be conducted among lecturers, support services staff and undergraduate students, a survey on downscaling the use of interpreters, as well as on the experience and preferences of students who switch to the parallel-medium option. With a view to next year, lecturers have also been requested to clearly contract with students in advance with regard to the accommodating use of more than one language in class, where applicable.
Appointments and member matters
Council appointed Prof Niel Krige of the Division for Development and Alumni Relations to the board of the Stellenbosch Trust.
Council also noted the report of the Joint Appointments Committee on Prof Louise Warnich's reappointment as Dean: Science for a second five-year term with effect from 1 February 2019.
We welcomed a new member, Dr Tsakani Ngomane, who attended her first Council meeting after being appointed by the Minister of Higher Education and Training for the period 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2022. Dr Ngomane holds a PhD (cum laude) in Agricultural Extension and Education from Pennsylvania State University in the United States. She is a policymaker with extensive experience in higher education. She has served as deputy director-general in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, and is currently deputy director-general of climate change, air quality and sustainable development in the Department of Environmental Affairs.
At the same time, Council bid farewell to Mr Lwando Nkamisa, outgoing SRC chair, who attended his last Council meeting. Council expressed its appreciation for Mr Nkamisa's regular attendance of meetings and valuable inputs, and wished him well with the completion of his master's studies.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for 25 March 2019.
Caption: From left, Council Chair Mr George Steyn, new Council member Dr Tsakani Ngomane, and Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers. (Picture: Stefan Els).