The third scheduled meeting of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Council for the year took place on Wednesday, 27 September 2017.
Council expanded the Campus Renewal Project, allocated funds for the construction of the new Teaching and Learning Centre to proceed, and approved the mid-year financial report.
We were provided with feedback on the implementation of the Language Policy, received the Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching's annual report, and were updated on progress with boosting the use of information communications technology in learning and teaching.
Other matters discussed included remuneration adjustments for 2018, the budget for next year, student demographics and SU's rise on world university rankings.
Council was also consulted about a new institutional vision and strategy, and briefed about plans to mark SU's Centenary next year.
Please find more details below.
Chairperson: SU Council
Campus Renewal Project expanded
Council has approved the expansion of SU's Campus Renewal Project (CRP), extending its timeline to 2027 and voting an additional R1,456 billion towards the initiative.
The main components of the expanded project will be the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences' Fisan Building, the Engineering complex, and refurbishing and expanding a number of other buildings on Stellenbosch campus.
The additional amount will be funded from the annual real return on SU's long-term investments, up to a maximum of 4% – the same funding model as that approved for the existing CRP. However, efforts to obtain additional funding from industry partners, donors and the state will continue.
Construction of new Teaching and Learning Centre to proceed
Council has reserved shortfall funding for the construction of the new Teaching and Learning Centre, which is to be erected behind the Neelsie. This means that the project can now proceed from the end of October, as planned.
The final estimated cost is R255,7 million. Most of the funds have already been secured – mainly from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and a number of University donors. (Mr Jannie Mouton initially gave R50 million, and recently donated another R13 million.) Council has now reserved R16,8 million should further efforts to raise more funding prove unsuccessful.
The new Teaching and Learning Centre will be erected at the point of intersection of the north-south and east-west axes running across Stellenbosch campus. This fits in with the intention for the centre to be a multipurpose facility used by various faculties. The contact between students from various disciplines will stimulate innovation. The building will feature advanced technology for 21st-century learning and teaching. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
Mid-year financial report
Council approved SU's mid-year financial report for submission to the DHET. It covers the institution's financial performance for the period 1 January to 30 June 2017.
The 2017 budget was successfully managed for the first half of the year. The institution is financially sound and increased its available funds and net asset value. Private donations exceeded expectations, and investments performed well.
However, certain risks need to be taken into account, such as the unknown effect of the expected change in the state subsidy formula on the University's first-stream income, the impact of the poor global economic situation as well as pressure on student finances.
Council noted the University's continued commitment to sound financial planning and management aimed at securing the long-term financial sustainability of the institution.
Remuneration adjustments for 2018
Council received a report from its Remuneration Committee on remuneration adjustments for 2018. It recommended a general inflation-linked adjustment of 6% for all staff members who had achieved a performance score of 3 or higher in the previous cycle. A decision in this regard is subject to final approval of SU's budget for 2018 at the final Council meeting of the year on 27 November 2017, as well as the final state subsidy allocation.
Council was briefed on processes currently under way across the University to finalise the 2018 budget for approval at the November 2017 Council meeting. The uncertainty about the revised subsidy formula and a possible new student fee dispensation makes it vital for the University to do everything it can to increase its income and improve its resource efficiency.
SU improves its position on two world university rankings
Council welcomed the news that SU had improved its position on two reputable lists of the world's leading universities. On the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, SU is now placed in the 351–400 category, having been in the 401–500 category previously. And on the QS World University Rankings, SU is now second in South Africa (ranked 361st overall against 395th previously).
In both cases, SU's strength in research was indicated as a key motivation for its good rating. This reflects the University's status as a leading research-intensive institution in the country and on the continent.
Council noted SU's nuanced approach to university rankings, given the differences of opinion about the methodology followed to compile them. Academic excellence remains non-negotiable for SU, and no attempt is made to artificially influence the institution's position on any ranking.
Report of the Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching
At this meeting of Council, it was the turn of the Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching, Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, to table an annual report.
Council noted excellent performance in all eight strategic focus areas of this responsibility centre, namely excellence in learning and teaching, student access with success, size and shape, programme renewal, multilingual programme offering, new knowledge markets, student financial support, as well as information communications technology (ICT) in learning and teaching. The latter aspect also constituted a separate agenda point (see below).
Click here for the full report, and here for the PowerPoint version.
Information communications technology in learning and teaching
Council received a progress report on the investment of R218 million it made in ICT in learning and teaching in 2014.
- The roll-out of a fibre-optic network on Stellenbosch campus has been completed. And the WiFi roll-out is proceeding apace, with 73% of classrooms now WiFi-enabled for multiple devices per student.
- The lecturer support programme has made great strides in changing the way learning technologies are integrated with the curriculum. The placement of learning technology advisers and blended learning coordinators in faculties is paying dividends, with more than 500 initiatives registered last year.
- The use of SUNStream has been gaining ground, with departments using the live classroom concept to facilitate simultaneous learning for out-of-class students.
- The SUNLearn mobile app has now also gone live and is working well. Students and lecturers can gain access to their SUNLearn courses on the go, and some content can be downloaded for offline use.
- The Telematic Schools Project, which is run in collaboration with the departments of education in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, is going from strength to strength. It is providing curriculum support to Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners. The total number of schools reached thus far stands at 663.
- SU's first, successful massive open online course (MOOC), “African Philosophy of Education", was introduced towards the end of 2016 and attracted 5 000 participants globally earlier this year. It achieved an exceptionally high completion rate of 38,5%.
According to the annual June census, SU's total student numbers have reached 31 639, a third of whom are postgraduate enrolments.
In 2012, the University had 25,9% coloured, black African, Indian and Asian (CBIA) newcomer first-years. This year, this figure has increased to 34,8%. Overall, undergraduate enrolments are at 40,1% CBIA students, and 47,2% at the postgraduate level. Several faculties have indicated that they had implemented additional focused recruitment actions to increase CBIA enrolments.
New institutional vision and strategy
Council was briefed on progress with developing SU's Vision 2040 and a new Strategic Plan 2019–2024. Council members also provided feedback on draft elements of the vision and mission as well as proposed values to be included in such a document, and will still be able to provide further written input.
The University's current Institutional Intent and Strategy 2013–2018 lapses next year. A task team led by Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, was established in July last year to guide the process of drafting a new plan. The Institutional Planning Forum provided input in February this year, followed by the Executive Managers' Meeting in July, and a number of working groups have also been considering different aspects of the new framework.
Faculties and PASS (professional administrative and support services) divisions are currently being consulted on vision and mission elements as well as values, and a student questionnaire on SU's values is in the pipeline. Additional opportunities for staff and students to provide input are also envisaged.
Council will again be consulted on aspects of the proposed new framework, and a draft strategic plan is expected to be tabled to Council in March next year. Formal approval processes will then ensue, with a final draft scheduled to serve before Council in June 2018 for approval.
Marking SU's Centenary in 2018
Council received an update on plans to mark SU's 100th anniversary as a public university next year.
The Centenary project, being driven by Prof Hester Klopper and Dr Barbara Pool, reached a milestone on 25 August, when the visual identity for this initiative was revealed (click here for a short animation). SU's current corporate identity was adapted for this purpose, and an additional element added for more informal applications. This is currently being rolled out across the University for implementation from January next year.
Also unveiled on the same occasion was the Centenary messaging. This is contained in the theme “100 years of learning, growing and moving forward together", and the expression “forward together, saam vorentoe, masiye phambili".
A Centenary website is being developed and social media will also be used. Existing events on the University's annual calendar will form the basis of the Centenary programme. A music festival at Coetzenburg on 2 March 2018 will be the first main event, which will coincide with the opening of the SU Woordfees.
Other elements being planned include a VIP event in March and a fundraising gala in October, two Centenary books and other publications, a lecture series, various exhibitions, and a range of branded memorabilia and other items. The broader community, other universities and additional stakeholders and partners will also be involved.
Implementation of the Language Policy
Council was briefed on the implementation of the University's Language Policy, which it approved in June 2016 with the concurrence of Senate for implementation with effect from 2017.
Faculty reports reflect very few deviations from the language implementation plans approved for 2017. Where there had been minor deviations, valid explanations were provided. The University's Ombud did not receive any complaints about language, and where students did raise implementation issues in their faculties, these were dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
A second language implementation survey among undergraduate students has just been conducted following the initial one at the start of the year.
Some challenges are being experienced in respect of interpreting as well as the correct application of one of the language modes, namely dual-medium teaching. A recurring theme is the importance of the accurate and correct translation of assessments, core notes and PowerPoint presentations.
Council commended faculties for their concerted and continued efforts to implement their language implementation plans according to the provisions of the Language Policy, and expressed its appreciation for the effort made by lecturers to give effect to the policy for the benefit of students.
Amendments to reporting lines
Council took note of the following changes made by management to reporting lines at the University:
- The ten deans will now report to the Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies (VR:RIPS) instead of to the Rector as is currently the case. This will be piloted next year and will be reviewed in September.
- Innovus currently forms part of the responsibility centre of the Chief Operating Officer (COO). However, the Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching (VR:LT) will now be involved in the development of short courses by Innovus.
- There will be no change at Innovus in terms of its other functions, i.e. technology transfer, the protection of intellectual property, and the commercialisation of other SU assets.
- Since information technology is inherently part of the University's operations, IT will be moved from the responsibility centre of the VR:RIPS to that of the COO.
- To allow for the establishment of a Division for Information Governance, the component of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) that focuses on planning and data will move to the responsibility centre of the Vice-Rector: Strategy and Internationalisation. The component of IRP that focuses on academic programme planning and quality assurance will remain under the VR:LT, but will be reallocated to another division.
These decisions will take effect on 1 October 2017 and are intended for full implementation from 1 January 2018. The changes will result in amendments to the Rectorate's delegation framework.
Management meetings in 2018
Council was informed of the following changes in the top management meetings for 2018:
Executive management meetings
- The RMT in its current form will cease to exist and the name 'Rector's Management Team (RMT)' will no longer be used.
- SU's executive management will be called 'the Rectorate', which will consist of the executive members, with the Registrar and Executive Manager: Rectorate as support staff.
- Rectorate meetings will be held every alternate week from 2018 onwards.
- Key senior managers may be invited to the biweekly Rectorate meetings to introduce, motivate or provide perspectives on issues within their respective portfolios.
General Management Committee
- General Management Committee (GMC) meetings – consisting of the Rectorate, deans and senior managers from the PASS environments – will be held once per term.
- The functions of the general management meeting will be redefined in a revised rules document.
- The Division of the Registrar will provide the secretariat.
Council congratulated several of its members on recent achievements.
Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, has been elected vice-chairperson of Universities South Africa (USAf) for 2018 and 2019. He has also been appointed as a council member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) for a period of three years from 1 August this year.
Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, has received a National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/South32 award for his outstanding contribution to research and innovation in South Africa. The award recognises, celebrates and rewards excellence in science, engineering, technology and innovation in South Africa.
Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen, Chief Operating Officer, has been honoured by the South African deciduous fruit industry. He received the Frontrunner award for his leadership role in the agricultural sector over a period of 40 years. He has served on several committees and boards, inter alia as president of the council of the Soil Science Society of South Africa for three years.
Prof André Keet, a ministerial appointee on SU's Council, has assumed the role of chair of the national Transformation Oversight Committee, which the minister of higher education and training recently expanded to 10 members.
Ms Ziyanda Stuurman participated via video link in her first Council meeting, also as a ministerial appointee, having previously served on Council as a Students' Representative Council member. All five ministerial positions have now been filled. Besides Ms Stuurman and Prof Keet, the other members are Prof Gerhard Maré, Ms Sindi Lingela and Mr Anthony Dietrich.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for 27 November 2017.