News & Media

Quarterly message from Council to the university community (June 2018)

The University of South Africa (Unisa) Council, during its ordinary sitting on Thursday, 21 June 2018, after lengthy discussions, took decisions on matters driving the transformation, policy direction and strategy of the university.

Successes lauded

The Chairperson of Council cited three areas where positive advances were being made at Unisa and that were worth being celebrated by all stakeholders.

  • The first relates to youth success. A BTech in Engineering student Katlego Semenya initiated a soap project and put together a team consisting of Professor Diane Hildebrandt and Ralph Muvhiiwa, both from Unisa’s Institute for the Development of Energy for African Sustainability (IDEAS), fellow BTech student Thembelihle Ndlela, along with BSc Chemistry student Kamogelo Sehoole, and two MTech Chemical Engineering students, Saneliswa Magagula and Zamanyambose Mthethwa. The project is now benefiting a group of women from the Inanda community in Durban. They are also involved in the development of ‘sci-tech mobilabs’—mobile laboratories to benefit learners in community schools to perform science experiments with elaborate laboratory equipment. They were fortunate in that IDEAS took them in as interns.
  • The second relates to Unisa’s role in shaping History as school subject. The chairperson indicated that Minister Angie Motshekga, on 31 May this year, presented a report into the introduction of History as a compulsory subject and recommended that History be phased in incrementally from 2023 in Grade 10 to 2025 in Grade 12.  The project is led by Professor Sifiso Ndlovu of Unisa, responsible for the SADET programme.
  • Lastly the Chairperson touched on the South Africa Scenarios 2030 Indlulamithi. Dr Somadoda Fikeni from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office is a project leader in this important initiative, allowing Unisa to play a critical role. Compelling and contrasting scenarios for South African society in the year 2030 was launched on Thursday, 21 June in Johannesburg and will now form the basis of a nationwide public conversation, involving government, the corporate sector and civil society organisations across the country.

Special word of caution

Council made special mention of the issue of cyber security, stating that many large organisations were currently under attack. Unisa staff are requested to take every precaution to avoid large-scale security breaches.

Matters that were considered

Council considered reports from all sub-committees of Council. In supporting aligned and timeous communication, the matters listed below were approved and have a bearing on students and staff members. All key documents will be placed on Unisa’s digital platforms.

  • Finalisation of the process of the amendment of the terms of reference (ToRs) of the various committees of Council and recommendation of approval of the ToRs by Council

The process of review of the various ToRs has been ongoing.  Members of staff are asked to look closely at changes and comply accordingly with each committee of Council requirement.

  • Unisa@145 years anniversary – Fundraising campaign

All internal advancement forces, led by Management, received support from the Unisa Council on the overall Unisa@145 years anniversary campaign. 26 June, the actual founding day of Unisa, will be celebrated through the 145 donation campaign. The university community (staff and students) are invited to be part of this initiative to assist students in need.

  • Remuneration policy for extended management and directors as well as performance management policy for extended management and directors (P1-P4)

The above two policies were approved for post levels P1 to P4 to enhance the university’s overall performance by taking away the silo management approach, thus encouraging coherence.

  • Compliance Framework

The Compliance Framework is part of the university’s Enterprise Risk Management Framework, which has already been approved by Council. The Compliance Framework is geared towards strengthening the effectiveness of compliance with regulatory requirements within Unisa and, accordingly, describes the role and responsibilities of the different role players within the university and provides the tools for the management of compliance risk.

  • Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2017

Council congratulated members of staff who work hard and see to it that the name of the university is upheld through good performance. However, areas of poor performance were also noted and Council urged staff to apply themselves to improve in such areas in order to have our beacon shining even brighter.

This report presents a comprehensive account of the 2017 achievements as contracted in the APP. This is in accordance with the reporting regulations that the approved APP must be submitted to the Minister together with the audited financial statements.

Your attention is drawn to performance in the three strategic focus areas:  

    • Strategic focus area 1: Towards becoming a leading ODeL, comprehensive university in teaching and learning, research, innovation and community engagement based on scholarshipEight of the 13 targets were achieved, whilest five were not achieved.  This constitutes 62% achievement in strategic focus area 1.
    • Strategic focus area 2: To craft and embed an agile, innovative, sustainable and efficient operational environment. Council approved the deferment of two targets which leaves this focus area with seven targets. Four of the seven targets were achieved and three were not.  This translates in to 44.4% total achievement.
    • Strategic focus area 3: To harness ICTs to support the transformation of the core business, to enable high performance, service and quality to all its communities. There were four Council-amended targets in total. All targets were achieved. 

In total, the percentage achievement for the APP is 66%.

  • Compact with Council

The 2017 Compact with Council had 147 objectives set across the three strategic focus areas. Six of these were deferred, leaving 141 targets. Strategic focus areas 1, 2 and three achieved 66%, 60% and 90% respectively. As discussed earlier, Council believes there is still room for improvement.

  • Council Annual Report for 2017

Council congratulated management on a great milestone of making a first attempt at the Integrated Annual Report, a feat many universities have not come to grips with. The draft report was presented and welcomed by council. Council noted that the process of compiling the integrated report was quite detailed and had to start early in order to allow the compilation to run smoothly and meet deadlines.

It was noted that the financial statements showed good performance compared to previous years. Council urged management to sustain this good progress.

  • New appointments – extended management

Council approved all the executive director appointments that were submitted. The names will be published as soon as candidates have accepted offers. Council hopes this process will stabilise Unisa further.

  • Challenges in the ICT environment

The capacity challenges in the ICT Portfolio were noted and that they are being addressed with the appointment of the new Chief Information Officer. Council approved the appointment of qualifying ICT agency workers at Unisa on a short-term basis as fixed-term contract workers for a period of three years. This was to allow positive performance in the ICT environment. Council was keen to see the student relationship with Unisa supported and improved.

With regard to student access to devices, Council approved

      • that the pilot initiative continues and be registered as a strategic project
      • that a phased student access project implementation plan and approach be  followed
      • use of NSFAS assistance criterion solely as an evaluation tool in establishing a targeted sample group for this project
      • prioritisation of the engagements with the DHET on NSFAS funding regarding funds allocated for electronic devices and corresponding data, with a report back to the ICTCoC at the next meeting
      • further formal and robust engagements with the NSFAS leadership regarding NSFAS students for the initial rollout be conducted.
  • Communication Policy

The Communication Policy aims to guide the planning and delivery of communications and define the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved in the communication process. This policy guideline extends to all forms of communication and applies across Unisa’s channels and communication platforms where Unisa is represented as an institution.

  • Update on the LLB review

Council congratulated management on getting full accreditation for the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) programme offered at the University of South Africa. They urged management to maintain the same status in other key areas like education, social work and commerce.

  • Unisa organisational change and health strategy

This strategy is a response to the Institutional Health Survey that was conducted with staff in 2017. Council expressed its support in having an engaged workforce and encouraged the implementation of this strategy with earnest.

  • School of Governance logo

Due to the autonomous status of the School of Governance, the entity requested a logo with a strong visual resemblance to the Unisa brand, yet with an own, unique identity. A fresh new logo was approved and will provide a new visual representation while still maintaining customer loyalty from the mother brand. 

  • Mission-critical positions

Council noted all critical positions as submitted by the relevant portfolio heads. These were approved by HRCoC.

  • Revised business model and regional strategy

Council requested that the revised business model be referred for further stakeholder consultation as this was an important document in shaping Unisa’s way of doing things. This process has to be aligned to the regional strategy. Unisa stakeholders are urged to be part of this process.

NB: Council asked management to look at creative ways of managing enrolments. They stressed that underperforming in this area was not acceptable as there are many students who wanted to join Unisa, a point that is evident during applications and registration periods.