Dear members of the SU community
This is my last communiqué as Chair of the Council of Stellenbosch University (SU), a position that I vacated on 2 December 2021. However, since I still chaired our last meeting for the year on that day, it is my pleasure to provide this feedback.
Council determined a new Language Policy for SU with the concurrence of Senate; approved the University's 2022 budget, including adjustments to staff remuneration and student fees; and accepted a revised Student Constitution proposed by the Students' Representative Council (SRC).
We also supported the University's plans to return to full face-to-face learning, teaching and assessment next year, COVID-19 permitting; and received an update from management on the development of an institutional rule regarding vaccination against coronavirus disease.
The past two years under the pandemic have been challenging, but our University has done exceedingly well throughout. The following motion of appreciation was carried unanimously: “Council wishes to congratulate the Rector, his management team and staff for continuing to manage the University with great commitment and delivering results that further SU's strategic ambitions, notwithstanding the many varied challenges experienced." And let me add that our students keep on making us very proud.
There were ups and downs during my two terms as Council Chair, but overall I am very happy with SU's progress during the past decade. It was a huge privilege to serve my alma mater in this capacity, and I thank everyone for their support.
SU is privileged to now have someone of the calibre of my successor, Mr Ainsley Moos, at the helm of Council (click here for more information). I am convinced that he will be an extremely capable chairperson and we wish him all the best.
Please read on for more detail on issues dealt with at our meeting.
All the best with the last duties of the year. After an eventful 2021, our spirits will no doubt soar as we watch thousands of SU students graduate from 13 to 16 December (details here). Enjoy the upcoming break and return safely in 2022.
Chair (outgoing): SU Council
Rule regarding vaccination against COVID-19
At our previous meeting, on 27 September 2021, Council discussed the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and called on management to work towards the urgent development of an institutional rule on vaccination against the disease. At this meeting (2 December 2021), management reported back on the progress in this regard.
The prescribed risk assessment has been conducted, and management has decided that a high rate of vaccination is required to provide a safe campus and working environment for all our students, staff and other persons.
On 3 December 2021, SU embarked on a process of public participation on its intended institutional rule regarding vaccination against COVID-19. The period of public participation will last until 15 January 2022.
All stakeholders – including staff members and students – are encouraged to participate:
Please note that due to the nature of the public consultation process, SU will not be able to respond to individual email comments outside of the process.
The comments and inputs provided will be considered after the closing date. Then, the vaccination rule will be finalised for internal consultation and approval – in the final instance by Council.
Visit SU's dedicated COVID-19 vaccination page for more information.
Council approved SU's integrated budget for 2022 and financial planning for the period 2023 to 2027 at the recommendation of its Executive Committee. Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis reported that the budget process had been participatory, and that the budget model ensured predictability and transparency.
The salient features of next year's budget are as follows:
- Student tuition fees will increase by 5,35%. This represents an inflation-related adjustment to cover the annual increase in costs at the University.
- Student accommodation fees will increase by 7% in the light of the escalating cost factors associated with the housing budget, which has to be self-sustaining and dealt with separately, as required by government.
- At the recommendation of Council's Remuneration Committee, there will be a general increase of 4,5% in staff remuneration.
The main budget for 2022 totals R3,26 billion, of which 49,4% will go to faculties, 27,5% to the institutional component, 20,8% to professional and administrative support services, and 2,7% to the strategic component.
SU's total integrated budget for 2022 totals R6,94 billion. This includes revenue from contract research, donations and commercial activities, which jointly make up 42,3% of the University's income. SU's state subsidy accounts for 28,9% of the integrated budget revenue, and student tuition and accommodation fees for 26,3%. Other revenue sources contribute 2,5%.
SU's integrated budget was prepared against the backdrop of a likely cut in state subsidy next year due to the precarious state of the national government's finances, and shortfalls in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Council took note, with concern, of two notable sectoral risks: the sustainability of the state subsidy and the potential regulation of student fees.
The approval of the budget is conditional on final confirmation of our state subsidy towards the end of 2021. For this reason, as is customary, Council mandated the Rector and the chair and deputy chair of Council to approve any budget amendments arising from the confirmation of the subsidy, following consultation with the chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. However, in the event of material amendments, a Council meeting would need to be convened.
Revised SU Language Policy approved
Council approved SU's revised Language Policy with an overwhelming majority, thereby concluding a thorough, comprehensive and consultative revision process that started in October 2020. The 2021 revision formed part of a five-year revision cycle prescribed by the 2016 policy.
On 26 November 2021, Senate also approved the final draft by an overwhelming majority and recommended the document to Council. According to the Higher Education Act and the SU Statute, the Language Policy is the only policy to be approved by Council with the concurrence of Senate. Two weeks earlier, the Institutional Forum (IF) had similarly adopted the draft and recommended it to Council.
The revised Language Policy reaffirms that SU is a national asset in a diverse society. Without losing sight of the fact that SU also serves continental and global communities, the University recommits itself to multilingualism by using the three official languages of the Western Cape, namely Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa. This unlocks the intellectual wealth inherent in our linguistic diversity.
The revised policy will be implemented from January 2022. Click here for more information, here for an infographic and here for the policy itself.
Revised SU Student Constitution approved
Council approved the revised Student Constitution of SU, on condition that the Students' Representative Council (SRC) reports back on its effectiveness a year after its commencement (i.e., at the first Council meeting of 2023).
The Student Constitution contains the Bill of Student Rights at the institution, sets out the parameters for the election of representative student structures at SU, and constitutes such bodies as the SRC, Student Parliament, the Student Court, the Academic Affairs Council and the Prim Committee.
The earliest Student Constitution on record at SU dates from 2011. It was approved by the SRC and revised in 2014 and 2018. According to the new SU Statute, adopted in 2019, the Student Constitution must be approved by Council.
The SRC initiated a revision of the Student Constitution in December 2020. An extensive process followed, including consultation with the Office for Student Governance, the Division of Student Affairs, the Rectorate and the Executive Committee of Council – all of which recommended the revised document to Council for approval. Students were also consulted extensively and voted in favour of the final draft in a university-wide referendum.
'Gamechangers' for SU's future success
In his management report to Council (click here for the complete document, and here for slides), SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers pointed out that great care is being taken to keep SU on track for success post-COVID-19.
The Rectorate has identified seven strategic areas that represent 'gamechangers' with regard to the SU's future sustainability:
- programme renewal (to continue to meet the requirements of the global economy);
- the school/faculty model (to streamline SU's academic, professional and research offering);
- innovation and entrepreneurship (encompassing learning, teaching, research and commercialisation);
- SU's hybrid model (to penetrate and exploit new markets);
- assessment (new and appropriate modes to meet the requirements of modern commerce and industry);
- models to unlock partnerships in Africa and further afield; and
- SU's digital transformation strategy (to equip SU for the new digital era).
Learning and Teaching
Having taken office in January 2021, Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Learning and Teaching, presented his first annual report of activities in his responsibility centre (RC) to Council.
“It was challenging, but also interesting, joining in the midst of a pandemic. We had to conclude one unusual academic year and plan for the commencement of another – flipping between different modes of remote teaching, learning and assessment in the process. Added to the mix was the revision of the Language Policy, which had to be done this year. All of which made for a demanding but exciting first year," he said.
“SU has a reputation as an institution that is extremely strong in learning and teaching, with one of the lowest dropout rates and one of the highest student success rates among South Africa's 26 public universities," he added.
His report (click here for the complete document and here for slides) gave us a good appreciation of why this is the case, as well as of efforts to ensure that this achievement is not only maintained, but even improved.
Institutional Plan 2022–2027
Council approved SU's Institutional Plan (IP) 2022–2027, as tabled by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs, Prof Hester Klopper.
The IP, which is aligned with SU's Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024, is updated annually based on the strategic implementation plans of the RCs and faculties. Together with the budget, it will now be submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training by 15 December 2021.
Dean: Engineering reappointed
Council noted the reappointment of Prof Wikus van Niekerk as Dean: Engineering for the term 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2027. The SU Statute stipulates that a dean is appointed for a five-year term and that the incumbent may be reappointed for one more consecutive term. Prof Van Niekerk is currently serving in his first term, which concludes on 30 June 2022. The chair of the Senior Appointments Committee approved his reappointment after the Faculty Board of Engineering voted in favour of this proposal.
Council welcomed Dr Jan Heunis as a new member elected by the Convocation for the term 8 October 2021 to 7 October 2025.
It was the last Council meeting of Prof Eugene Cloete as one of the deputy vice-chancellors, who must rotate every calendar year in an order determined by the Rector.
The terms of Profs Amanda Gouws and Reggie Nel as Council members elected by Senate will also come to an end on 31 December 2021.
The terms of the following Council members will come to an end before the first Council meeting next year:
Adv Jean Meiring and Mr Johan Theron, elected by the Convocation (1 April 2022)
Mr Wayde Davidse, elected by the permanent professional and administrative support services (PASS) staff (5 April 2022)
The following Council members were congratulated with recent achievements:
Ms Viwe Kobokana received the Rector's Award for Excellent Service
Mr Phillip Visage received the Rector's Award for Excellent Leadership
Mr George Steyn stepped down as Chair of Council after two terms, having first been elected to that position in 2012. Council thanked him for his capable, selfless and loyal service to the University. Having first joined Council in 2010, he will remain a member of the body until his term as Council member expires on 1 April 2022. He was also reappointed to the Executive Committee of Council until that time.
Council took note of the Registrar's official declaration of Mr Ainsley Moos as Council Chair from 3 December 2021 after no other nominations were received. He was congratulated with his election. His term as Council member was extended until 31 May 2026.
To fill the position vacated by Mr Moos, Council elected Mr Hubert Brody as Deputy Chair until 2 December 2025, provided he is re-elected by the SU donors before his current term as Council member expires on 1 April 2022. He has served on Council since 2018.
Prof Prieur du Plessis was reappointed Chair of Council's Audit and Risk Committee until 31 December 2022.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for Monday 11 April 2022.
TOP: Mr Ainsley Moos, left, has taken over the reins as Chairperson of the Stellenbosch University Council from Mr George Steyn (Photo: Stefan Els; Graphic: Karin Bekker)