The Council of Stellenbosch University (SU) held its third scheduled meeting of the year on Wednesday 25 September 2019. A new Chancellor was elected by an electoral college that met prior to the Council meeting, and thereafter Council reappointed the Rector and Vice-Chancellor.
Council members strongly condemned gender-based violence and welcomed the ongoing engagement between management and students in this regard. Council also expressed concern at alcohol and substance abuse among students and requested all stakeholders to do more to combat this problem.
A Policy on Quality Assurance and Promotion for the University was approved. In addition, Council also received reports from the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation as well as the Chief Operating Officer.
Please read on for more information.
Chair: SU Council
New Chancellor elected
An electoral college comprising Council, the Executive Committee of Senate as well as the president and vice-president of the SU Convocation gathered prior to the Council meeting to elect the University's 15th Chancellor. Justice Edwin Cameron – academic, jurist, author and recently retired Constitutional Court judge – was elected by an overwhelming majority. He will be succeeding Dr Johann Rupert, whose term expires at the end of the year.
Council thanked Dr Rupert for his service to the University since he became Chancellor in 2010 and congratulated Justice Cameron on his election. Cameron is an SU alumnus who received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater in 2015, and was nominated for the office of Chancellor by members of the Convocation. Click here for a full news article.
Second term for Rector
Council unanimously appointed Prof Wim de Villiers for a second five-year term as SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor – from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025. The Institutional Forum and Senate had earlier recommended Prof De Villiers's reappointment.
The chair expressed Council's appreciation for the fact that SU was performing outstandingly with the Rector at the helm, and said that Prof De Villiers had tabled a compelling vision for his second term.
The Rector said that SU's students and staff remained his top priority, as there would be no University without them. Therefore, he will continue to promote their success and development. Click here for a full news report.
School for Data Science and Computational Thinking
Council welcomed the news that SU had established a School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, as reported by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor (click here for his Management Report). This standalone entity, which was officially launched on 29 July, is not located in any single faculty, but collaborates across faculty boundaries. Click here for a full news article.
Article on race and cognition
Council noted that three Senate committees had recommended that SU officially adopt the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings (www.globalcodeofconduct.org) at its next Senate meeting in November 2019. This follows the controversy earlier this year surrounding an article on race and cognition published by SU researchers.
Council also took note of efforts to establish in what way all students could be exposed to learning material on gender and critical race studies, as well as of a survey to determine the extent to which research and teaching on these subjects were already occurring at SU.
Meanwhile, the inquiry into the publication of the article continues. Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, undertook to provide further feedback on the matter at the next Council meeting.
Midyear financial report
Council approved SU's midyear financial report for submission to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The report covers the University's financial results for the period 1 January to 30 June 2019.
According to the report, the 2019 budget was responsibly managed over this period. The University is financially sound, despite predominantly weak market conditions and investment performance. As in 2018, private donations again showed higher-than-anticipated growth.
Nevertheless, certain risks need to be taken into account, such as the impact of global and local economic prospects, potential cuts in state funding, and the as-yet unknown effect of the expected regulation of student fees.
Council noted the University's continued commitment to sound financial planning and management in order to ensure the institution's long-term financial sustainability.
Fundraising at SU
SU managed to raise more income from donations and awards than any other institution participating in the 2018 survey on higher education philanthropy (ASPIHE). The survey has revealed that, at an operational level, SU is at the leading edge of fundraising in South Africa. The institution's fundraising efforts for undergraduate and postgraduate bursaries, for instance, yielded R107 million in 2018 against R58,8 million in 2015. Moreover, SU's Development and Alumni Relations Division spent only 6c for every rand raised compared to the survey average of 18c.
Policy on Quality Assurance and Promotion
Council approved a Policy on Quality Assurance and Promotion for SU. The policy provides for cyclical reviews of academic departments and professional administrative support services, and for the periodic review and renewal of faculties, organisational structures, as well as academic programmes and qualifications. The aim is to continuously enhance the quality of all functions at the University.
The Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching is responsible for implementing the policy. The final version will be published on SU's homepage, in the newly created central repository for key governance and management documents (click here for access).
SU ascends in global rankings
Council welcomed the news that SU had further improved its position among the world's leading universities in the latest edition of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. SU is now ranked in the 251–300 bracket as opposed to the 301–350 bracket last year. This puts SU among the top 1% of universities worldwide.
This time, SU improved its performance in relation to teaching, research, citations and international outlook. The most significant improvement was in citations, which had grown by 13% since last year. This is the third consecutive year that SU has improved in terms of this indicator.
Enrolments and qualifications
According to the annual June census, SU now has a total of 31 681 students, which is 0,3% fewer than last year. Postgraduate enrolments still account for approximately a third of the student body. A total of 52,5% of qualifications conferred in the 2018 academic year were at the postgraduate level.
Revised Statute commences
SU's new Statute has taken effect after it was published in the Government Gazette on 16 August 2019 (click here to view). It was adopted by Council in November 2018 and signed by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology on 10 July 2019.
Interim measures to give effect to the new Statute are currently being planned. The University has 24 months to align the composition of statutory bodies with the new Statute. The revised Statute is available on the University's official webpage for policies and regulations.
Report of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation
Council received an annual report (click here for her full report, and here for her slide presentation) from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, Prof Hester Klopper, covering the divisions of Strategic Initiatives, SU International, Information Governance and Corporate Communication. Highlights from the report include the following:
Strategic Initiatives (SI)
The Rectorate approved revised regulations for SU's Strategic Fund in April. The Fund focuses exclusively on initiatives that, although aligned with the vision, mission and core strategic themes of the University as outlined in Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019-2024, are not accommodated in the University's main operational budget. Three application categories are now provided for, namely strategic initiatives, strategic high-rise and public-square projects, and strategic appointments. This year, 27 projects reached the second round, and the decision on final awards will be taken on 31 October.
The Rectorate approved an Internationalisation Strategy for SU in August. It intends to consolidate the University's standing as a reliable global role-player and a preferred partner in Africa. The strategy offers a framework to incorporate an international dimension into all relevant institutional processes. It also brings greater focus to the existing wide range of internationalisation activities at SU and informs the institution's efforts to unlock new, emerging opportunities.
A range of strategic management indicators (SMIs) to measure SU's progress in delivering on its six core strategic themes were tabled to Council. The SMIs had been compiled and refined by a core working group during six intensive workshops that extended over a few weeks in August, and were then submitted to and further amended by the Rectorate. Council also noted that a final dashboard with strategic business indicators (SBIs) would serve at the Council meeting in December.
An SU brand perception audit has revealed that at least 170 sub-brands, visual identities and logos are being used across various SU environments – often without any obvious link to the University. This clearly weakens the University's brand. After careful consideration, the Rectorate has decided that SU will migrate from its current, fragmented “house of brands and logos" to a unified, monolithic brand architecture. A review of SU's visual identity will now be launched. In the meantime, the existing, Centenary-linked visual identity remains in use.
Report of the Chief Operating Officer
Council received an annual report (click here for his full report, and here for his slide presentation) from from the Chief Operating Officer, Prof Stan du Plessis. He oversees the Operations and Finance responsibility centre, which comprises the divisions of Finance, Facilities Management, Information Technology (IT), Innovus and Maties Sport. Highlights from his report include the following:
The main focus of SU's Finance Division for the next two years will be the roll-out and successful implementation of SUNFin (Oracle Cloud Financials) to support SU's strategic theme of a thriving SU. This will include the refinement of underlying processes and policies to optimise financial procedures, while still maintaining and adhering to good corporate governance principles. It will also entail reviewing the relevance of all sub-systems concerned/affected, as well as digitising current processes and procedures. This systems renewal project is seen as an opportunity to enhance processes with a view to both good governance and an optimal end-user experience, and to make the financial system an enabler of excellence. Change management and training will also be a major focus to ensure a satisfying experience for clients.
The Facilities Management Division manages the buildings, infrastructure, sports fields and associated services across all SU campuses. SU has 490 buildings with 820 810 m2 of usable space on 576 ha of land. Altogether 147 capital projects with a total value of R2,155 billion are currently under way at the University. Thanks to saving measures, the University's electricity consumption dropped to 2008 levels last year, and water consumption was 51% lower than the 2015 baseline.
Although security on all SU campuses remains a risk, the number of reported crime incidents is at its lowest since 2005. From 1 370 incidents in 2016, it dropped to 813 last year. Internal factors contributing to this trend include continuous assessment and mitigation of security risks, the procurement and appointment of a new security services partner, increasing the number of security officers on patrol, utilisation of improved communication security systems, and prioritising support and training for security staff. While these have all contributed to a decline in reported crime incidents, Campus Security is cognisant of the reality that external factors could easily destabilise the situation.
Innovus is responsible for SU's intellectual property and trademark portfolio, and supports SU researchers, staff and students to commercialise their expertise and research to generate benefits for the University as well as society. Innovus has received 22 interesting new invention disclosures this year to date, including:
- a “skin printer";
- fractioning, or the process of turning insects into food;
- a method for sound-based differential diagnosis of lung disease;
- a natural gas storage system;
- calibration services for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones); and
- a bio-compostable wine bottle.
SU's Information Technology (IT) Division is firmly on course to reshape its service delivery model into a structure that is geared for excellent ICT support services delivery, in collaboration with all partners both within and outside the University. One of the major opportunities to achieve this was the Service Delivery Model Review, which has just been concluded. This entailed a thorough review of operational processes in order to standardise and formalise IT's service offering. A new service engagement model has been proposed and is currently being developed for implementation.
Sport has strategic value for SU. One of Maties Sport's many recent achievements was Maties Rugby's double Varsity Cup triumph for the second consecutive year. As in 2018, both the Maties Varsity Cup and the Maties Young Guns teams won their respective finals in the Varsity Cup tournament. SU hosted the 2019 USSA (University Sports South Africa) Games in July. Maties won two gold medals (men's cycling and women's surfing), six silver and two bronze medals. Equally praiseworthy was the 85% first-year throughput rate attained by Maties Sport's high-performance student athletes in 2018, which was in line with the SU average.
External review of Human Resources
Following the finalisation of the terms of reference for an external review of the Human Resources (HR) Division, a closed tender process was initiated and a consultancy firm appointed as service provider. The review commenced on 19 August. All HR's processes, procedures, policies, practices, staff members, staff competencies, workloads and staff placements will be examined.
Council members and structures
Council welcomed Ms Nadine Moodie as a new member. She is an SU alumna and former student leader who now works as a management and strategy consultant. Her term will be from 18 June 2019 until 17 June 2023. She is one of two Council members appointed by Council itself.
Mr Charl Cillié was appointed as chair of Council's Social and Business Ethics Committee, and Dr Minka Woermann from the Department of Philosophy as a member of that committee. Dr Woermann heads up the Business Ethics and Public Integrity Unit in SU's Centre for Applied Ethics.
The next Council meeting, which will be the final one for the year, is scheduled for Monday 2 December 2019.
PICTURE BY STEFAN ELS:
SU Council members at the meeting on September 25, 2019, from left (back), Messrs Wayde Davidse, Hubert Brody and Charl Cillié, Adv Gesie van Deventer, Profs Hester Klopper and Nico Koopman, Ms Nadine Moodie, Profs Johan Fourie and Eugene Cloete, Mr Ainsley Moos, Prof André Coetzee, Dr Tsakani Ngomane, Profs Aslam Fataar and Amanda Gouws, Adv Jean Meiring, Ms Carli van Wyk, Prof Usuf Chikte, Mr Paulu Joubert and Prof André Keet; (front) Profs Arnold Schoonwinkel, Joan Hambidge, Stan du Plessis and Wim de Villiers, Mr George Steyn (chair), Dr Ronel Retief (registrar), Ms Gwen Ngwenya and Ms Sindi Lingela.