The Committee met to receive a progress report on the transformation journey of the University of Pretoria and its stakeholders, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Institutional Forum, and the labour unions at the institution.
The University dealt with a range of issues covering its strategic goals, enrolments, funding, targets, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), student accommodation, safety and security, and its financial position. The stakeholders touched on matters related to their mandates and outlined various challenges -- from student life on campus and everything in between, to the staff employed at the University.
Although the labour unions praised the University for its support of various programmes and financial backing, they spoke frankly on matters affecting their members, such as vacancies, appointments, salary caps and the working conditions of employees. Both the SRC and the labour unions lamented being excluded by the University’s executive management on important decisions that affected their members.
The Committee encouraged the University to refrain from operating in a silo, stressing that including other stakeholders would enhance the harmony that Members sought to see in institutes of higher learning. Members asked for a lot of information to be responded to in writing, including a breakdown of the demographics of all the senior academic staff of UP, as there had been “corridor” chats about most of them being non-South African blacks; the role of the transformation office and details of its operations; policies of the University on sexual harassment-related matters and other issues; and the student throughput and dropout rate.
Questions were also asked about NSFAS funding; student protests; fee increments; the changing alumni of the institution and the impact of this on the University's third-stream income; how the transformation should be inclusive of the diversity of South Africa; the issue of academic languages; and the importance of stakeholder relations.
Sexual harassment allegations were emphatically and repeatedly raised by Members as a significant matter of concern. They asked that the Council of the University investigate these allegations and report back to the Committee within a month. The University management assured the Committee that once the facts had been independently verified, the outcome would be provided to the Committee. It did not shy away from cautioning against the entertainment of opinions that had not been verified as factual by an independent institution. The processes were underway.
The Committee resolved to have the answers to the questions of Members submitted in writing within seven days, due to time constraints. The University's management and its Council were advised to initiate a stakeholder meeting within 14 days and report back to the Committee, while the Council was asked to investigate the sexual harassment allegations and report to the Committee within one month.
University of Pretoria
Mr Kuseni Dlamini, Chairperson of the University Council, outlined the institutions' strategic goals. These were to enhance access to successful student learning; to strengthen the University’s research,
international profile, and global engagement; to foster and sustain a transformed, inclusive, and equitable university community; to enhance institutional sustainability and to strengthen the University’s social
responsiveness and impact on society.
Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice Chancellor and Principal: University of Pretoria (UP), took Members through the presentation. Some of the areas covered in the presentation were:
University strengths and achievements
% of black contact students: 59.31% (2014) – 62.72% (2021)
% of female contact students: 54.52% (2014) – 57.26% (2021)
Students receiving National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) support: 8.82% (2014); 21.32% (2020); 31.6% (2021).
% of permanent academic staff with PhDs: 51% (2014); 72% (2021).
% registrations in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) (contact students): 53.32% (2014); 49.96% (2021) – a challenge.
% successful Full-time Enrolment (FTE) students to total FTE enrolments: 81.83% (2014); 85.9% (2021).
% of black staff (Department of Labour employment equity (EE) definitions): 39.83.% (2014); 68.70% (2021).
Female academics: 48.93% (2014); 55.37% (2021).
Middle ear transplant with 3D-printed bones (Prof Mashudu Tshifularo).
Discovery of new compounds with the potential to eliminate malaria (Prof. Lyn-Marie Birholtz et al.).
Nanobodies for COVID-19 detection and therapy (Prof Tahir Pillay et al.).
Formation of X-shaped galaxies by black holes (UP researchers et al.).
Discovery of a group of 20 galaxies (Shilpa Ranchod, MSc student).
Conversion of biowaste into a component (activated carbon) of super-capacitors (Prof Ncholu Manyala).
Non-surgical artificial insemination of a lioness that gave birth to two cubs
UP had 606 National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated researchers -- the highest in the country and three new ‘homegrown’ A-rated researchers.
Scarce Skills Output
In 2020 (the latest data available), UP’s proportion of graduate outputs by all South African universities, excluding comprehensive universities and universities of technology, in scarce skills fields was as follows:
25.8% of engineering degrees
13.7% of accounting science degrees
19.2% of MBChB degrees
100% of BVSc degrees
13.9% of all master’s-level graduates
10.5% of all doctoral-level graduates
Responses to Covid-19
Harnessed the latest technology to transition to emergency remote teaching.
Telephone tutoring to students with connectivity challenges. Study materials were also provided in flash discs and hard copies.
Developed digital and multimedia learning materials and activities.
Launched the Solidarity Fund to raise funding to buy laptops for students.
Provided 3 000 laptops and tablets to students in need – delivered to students’ homes.
Virtual delivery (e-therapy) of professional psychological support to students
UP was the first academic institution in South Africa to open a COVID-19 vaccination site.
Clinical trials and testing -- UP participated in a World Health Organisation (WHO) multi-centre clinical trial for Africa, focusing on various antiviral compounds.
NSFAS and "missing-middle" students
The University of Pretoria currently has 11 834 NSFAS-funded students, of whom 1 523 were accommodated in university-owned residences and 7 652 were accommodated in accredited accommodation. The University had made funding available to assist students who
meet the missing middle criteria. Students experiencing financial difficulties were encouraged to liaise with the student funding office to enter payment plans, apply for UP assistance loans and/or apply for various external bursaries. UP aggressively undertook marketing campaigns to secure external funding to assist financially needy students.
Protest was sacrosanct at UP. The University had experienced attempts to mobilise for a protest by a small group of students led by the Students' Representative Council (SRC) from 22-25 August 2022. When the mobilisation was unsuccessful, the group resorted to disrupting and blocking buses and a campus. Pre-cautionary suspensions were then implemented and lifted when the students made representations as per the process. The cause was incorrect assumptions regarding the first payment of tuition fees. The first payment of fees for 2023 had been adjusted from R5 000 to R7 500, but the student's total tuition fees did not change because of this adjustment. For example, if the tuition fee for a programme was R50 000, it would remain R50 000, and the only change would be the first or initial payment, which was not paid by all students.
The increase of the first payment of tuition fees from 2023 followed lengthy and detailed discussions with all stakeholders in 2021, including the SRC. This was the first adjustment of the first payment since 2016. The adjustment would not affect all students - students funded by the NSFAS and external sponsors were not required to make the first payment. Students who could not make the first payment could approach the University for financial assistance from its various schemes to assist those in need.
The first payment, due at registration, was part of the total annual fee and was not in addition. No deserving academically qualifying students would be excluded. UP would engage the SRC in fact-based dialogue to work together in this regard.
University of Pretoria SRC
The Secretary General of the SRC outlined the presentation, which covered transformation at the University of Pretoria in terms of residence and student accommodation; economic transformation through access to learning and study material; access to financial support for the middle-class students; academic and curriculum transformation calling for language policy change; reviewing the N+1 Rule and scrapping faculty autonomy on financial aid related matters; challenges experienced by students; recent student protests; student hunger; student safety and mental health challenges amongst students.
The Institutional Forum placed the following matters as a high priority for 2022: gender-based violence (GBV); policy reviews; the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on staff and students; and the return of students to campus.
Regarding GBV on campus, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and students being based at home for the majority of 2022, the number of cases reported to the committee was unusually low, compared to previous years. After the return of students to campus on 25 July 2022, there had been an increase in the number of reported cases of GBV, but the SRC was monitoring such cases and providing constant feedback to the Institutional Forum on the effectiveness and efficiency of the University’s systems in addressing such cases.
Regarding the challenges being experienced by staff on campus, the IF had representation from union representatives, professional service staff, and academic staff. The committee attempts to ensure that staff-related issues are openly discussed should such matters be raised by any members. As it stands, for 2022, no significant matters were raised for inclusion in the agenda of the Institutional Forum as such matters were usually raised and discussed at the UP Bargaining Forum (UPBF).
On student challenges, students were represented in the Institutional Forum, with ten of its members being SRC representatives. Students had previously raised concerns about the accommodation arrangements at the University since the reopening of contact classes. In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University had amended its rules concerning the occupation of residences, with rooms that previously catered for two students now being limited to one occupant. Following the repeal of COVID-19 legislation, the University was not able to undo the measures it had put in place for COVID-19, as the allocations and billing of rooms for 2022 had already taken place. This led to many students struggling to secure accommodation at university residences. In response to this, the Vice-Principal: Student Life confirmed at a meeting of the IF that as of 2023, the University would revert to pre-COVID-19 arrangements regarding room allocations.
Consolidated labour unions at UP
The total university workforce was 6 116. The union represented almost 30% of the workforce. The presentation covered challenges faced by workers, transformation in the institution, and concerns regarding leaked e-mails (flouting of procurement processes and recent sexual harassment allegations).
[See the presentation for further detail]
The Chairperson said that there were concerns shared about the makeup of the operating divisions (ODs) and academics being puréed. How many researchers were African in the institution? From the Department, how many academics were they investing in and how many were from the University of Pretoria? Was data available for students funded by NSFAS, self-funded and those who were funded through bursaries?
Attending the NRF awards, they had shared the conversations and consensus around the makeup of the awardees and how it spoke to the general succession of academics from being peer-rated to A-rated scientists. UP had 606 NRF-rated researchers -- could the Committee have disaggregated data on this, and how many were Africans?
The Department may also look at this, as the Committee understood the impact of the Department's investment in its initiative to increase black women with PhDs, thus improving the makeup of academia in the country. These issues did not exist in isolation. How many academics was the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) funding from the University of Pretoria? As for the students funded by NSFAS, was there disaggregated data for the rest of the students, and how were they funded?
From the Department, this was the only institution with veterinary science as a faculty; what was the makeup of that skill supply in the post-school education and training (PSET) sector, particularly in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges as it related to agriculture?
Having most of the students female and young, they needed guarantees of their safety on campus. The numbers must translate to fundamental change and impact the plans and trajectory government planned to take this country to. The numbers must be intentional. There must be an assurance that there were systems in place.
The slide that referred to a few commitments, programmes and policies that UP had that advance transformation, would require follow-up slides on transformation because Members wanted to see the transformation journey of the institution. These commitments and policies etc. sounded great, but the finer detail was not something that had come up during the presentation. They needed to interrogate the question – with these increased numbers, what support systems had been put in place to ensure that they had the success that the Committee wanted to see amongst that cohort of students?
Concerning the diversification and succession plan, of the 1 255 academic staff -- with 443 being African -- there were concerns about whether one could monitor its impact. Numbers were needed to see whether this plan had an impact or not and addressed some of the concerns made by the workers. The workers had said that they were not seeing black African staff of the institution coming up in the ranks in an impactful manner.
The Committee would further require timeframes on some of the plans outlined in the presentation. When did the institution start working on the language development plan and what was the deadline for implementation? The Institutional Culture Survey had identified language -- how many people participated in the survey, and how much reflection was on the institution? The Committee was attempted to bring all stakeholders to the meeting so one could have a holistic view of what was happening in the institution and try to identify the gaps and bring everyone on board. The aim was to build cohesion, so all stakeholders could deliver on the mandate and have an impact on the communities and students.
When stakeholders come to the Committee, they must set aside enough time to be there. The vice-chancellor (VC) had indicated that he had time constraints. She suggested he join the meeting virtually, but he said it would not be a good look.
Anything that was said in the Committee must be supported by evidence. Where it felt like it needed to investigate those concerns, it would request the institutions to investigate allegations coming from the institution and report back to the Committee about them. It took issues around GBV very seriously and implored the Council to take that seriously in mitigating and eliminating it in the institution.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) commended the University for the work that it had done. Transformation was about age, race, disability, and a conducive environment for people to work in. She asked for the demographic details of the institution in strategic and key positions. The achievements and the plans of action to mitigate the challenges experienced during registration must be provided to the Committee to see what was happening with that matter.
On research breakthrough, there were 606 NRF-rated researchers, and she asked for more detailed data on this. She also asked about the relationships with the municipality and which office the institution was working with. For the 672 student beneficiaries, as well as students who received laptops. She wanted the specifics in terms of demographics.
To the SRC, she asked about the plans to put in place to address the issues outlined in its presentation. Were there any plans for the institution to assist with the challenges of the laptops? Was the data of the beneficiaries on issues of the hunger programme available? What was the process of registering a complaint of mental health or issues to the institution by students? Lastly, she emphasised the specifics of the demographics of the beneficiaries of the SRC.
To the unions, she said it was very saddening to hear about issues around GBV. The Committee requested that all the allegations or issues outlined by the unions should also be provided to the Committee in detail so that Members could go through these matters thoroughly and have a clear picture of what was happening. What were the programmes that unions had in place regarding the transformation agenda at the University?
Were there any relationships between the Chapter Nine institutions with the unions? Were the issues reported to those institutions? There was no clear picture of the University's private-public partnerships (PPPs). Lastly, she asked for specific details regarding the mental health programme offered by UP.
Ms C King (DA) asked about absorbing more young and black professionals -- was there a programme that sought to attract these young professionals? When it came to the comparison of employment amongst graduates, there was a need to investigate further which graduates were able to find employment, and that data could be used as a tool to inform the institution on which of its programmes were not performing in terms of job absorption or the employability of graduates.
She was also concerned about the dropout rate and would have liked to see in which faculties these dropouts were happening. On sexual harassment, the Gender Commission was not the only vehicle to go to about this -- how had Higher Health been involved? At the beginning of the year, the Committee had an issue with safety and security reports, where most universities and TVET colleges lacked a database on the data related to GBVF and sexual harassment. Was the security staff trained in handling GBVF-related matters on campus? How did the institution decide on its enrolment plans in some of its medical fields?
She had received a call from one of the missing-middle students, who had been instructed to vacate the residence in which she was staying because she was not an NSFAS student. It looked like missing middle students were being pushed out of the system because they could not afford tuition fees and housing fees. She agreed with long-term sustainable funding, but had the subsidy from the Department increased?
Some of the issues outlined by the unions were alarming, but when would the reviews be done on the statutes of the University so that unions and students were included on integral issues at the institution and decisions that affected them? They had both cited issues with the statute.
How many students were assisted a day through UP's hunger programme? Was transport for students to private accommodation available?
At some stage, entrepreneurship training should come in, and students must be encouraged to make themselves employable by getting some sort of casual employment to empower themselves. What engagements were there with businesses to ensure that some of these students got casual employment or got involved in various entrepreneurship programmes?
Dr W Boshoff (FF Plus) said that it was peculiar that when meeting with universities, the Committee departs from very different levels. The UP was performing exceptionally at a high level and had an incredible enrolment system. They start at a point where they are, and then they look for the problems. This may seem inappropriate when one was responsible for addressing those problems, because there were many other problems one may have already dealt with. However, the focus would always be on the remaining problems.
He wanted to know how the student structures worked sensibly, given the spread of the campuses of the University and the large cohort of students in the institution. Secondly, when they were dealing with institutions, it always sounded like it was all about the students, but within five years, they were all gone, and one had to deal with a completely new body of students. Then, when one thinks one has reached something, that generation of students leaves and the institution must deal with a new set of student challenges in every cycle of student intake. It was tiring to do this over and over, but it must be done.
UP’s transformation policy had been amended, so the names of some of the residences that were changed in the past year or three should not be the primary identification of the student. The student should identify with the faculty, rather than the dormitory or the residence where they lived. The feedback he got from students was that they liked to socialise across faculties, not the residences. It made him wonder what the voting percentage in electing this SRC had been.
Have there been any attempts to train students to get them involved in some sort of neighbourhood watch voluntarily for students to protect themselves on campus or assist in watching over their campus and taking responsibility for their peers?
Regarding transformation, he asked the Minister whether Section 235 applied to the higher education sector and whether people bound together by cultural identities had a legitimate right to express their identity. The Minister had said that the Act did say that, because all sections of the Constitution applied to the whole of society -- it could not be used as a way of excluding people. Transformation should mean that the higher education sector should mirror the demographics of South Africa as a whole. It did not mean that every association, residence and university campus should mirror or reflect exactly that. He had received many complaints, with some saying they were accepted in class for living where they lived, in specific residences. This created a problem, and went back to what the VC had referred to in sourcing funds for the institution because the grant was insufficient. The UP used to have an immensely loyal old students club, with people moving into influential places and having money at their disposal, and they used to support the university. If one transformed their heritage out of the university, it may not be a surprise if they took their donations elsewhere, where their children would feel at home.
He also wanted to know how gender was factored into the residence allocation for students, given the climate of LGBTQI that the world had become. Were the different genders, considering the LGBTQI, considered when a student was being allocated a residence dormitory room? How was the institution dealing with the different genders in residences, as some of the infrastructures were not built for privacy in the use of bathrooms and other facilities?
On language, could management and the SRC indicate the demand for classes conducted in Sepedi? He was in favour of developing Sepedi and Setswana and others, but was it fair to say that a language that had developed in the academic space, with proven demand, was being pushed aside to accommodate Sepedi to catch up?
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) said the institution’s report had been very good, but had been poisoned by the SRC comments and the unions. Did the students cause the protests because of the lack of engagement with management? It looked like the management of the institution was untouchable. Nothing was said about racism and sexual harassment cases on campus. What were the details of these issues?
From 2017 to 2021, the number of permanent black staff members increased steadily, from 62% to 69% yet the unions were complaining. The exclusion of these stakeholders in the important decision-making processes of the University would continue to create problems for the institution. The communication lines among the stakeholders must be ironed out and rectified to ensure that all challenges in the institution are resolved collectively.
How did UP encourage students to continue their studies? Did it allocate sufficient funds for the honours and master’s students? What were the underlying factors for the high dropout rate -- did it have any focused support? What was the composition of the share of the revenue of students who pay for their fees, as the increases primarily impacted the missing-middle students? The Council should consider reviewing its investment policy to invest most of its reserves into innovation, student accommodation, and to cushion bad debt.
Mr T Letsie (ANC) asked about the vacant positions, the status of filling them, and if there were vacancies in the Council. If so, how did those vacant positions affect the work of the Council? The VC had indicated in his presentation that the Council was fully represented in demographics. The Committee requested this information in writing. Did the Council have a code of conduct? If so, had all members of the Council signed this code of conduct? If not, why?
Was the Council of the view that it had clear policies and disciplinary manuals that detailed the processes of the disciplinary hearings of the executive management or the VC for transgressing the policies of the institution? Who was responsible for disciplining the VC?
Chapter Seven of the Institutional Statute refers to employees and section 56 deals with staff discipline --did section 56 apply to the VC and DVCs? Who was responsible for the discipline of the VC and DVCs? Was the Council of the view that the provisions were adequate, especially for the VCs and DVCs? This emanated from the Committee’s enquiry into the University of Venda and Sefako Makgotho University.
He asked about the representation of designated groups in the composition of the deans and heads of faculties. Did the university have employees with disabilities in middle and lower management? If not, what intentional steps were being taken to ensure the employment of people with disabilities? Did UP have an employment equity plan, and how active was the employment equity office?
Could the Committee receive a breakdown of the demographics of the high number of black academics employed by the University? In the presentation, all blacks employed were included as one category. This did not tell the whole story, and there had been corridor talks that most of the senior academic staff were not South Africans. The breakdown must include Indians, coloureds, whites, black South Africans, and blacks from the diaspora.
Did the university have a sexual harassment policy? If so, when was it developed and adopted? What did it say when there was a sexual harassment allegation against anybody in the institution? What was the process to follow by Council on this? Had there been any instances of sexual harassment at the institution? Had the institution provided support to the victims? Was the university of the view that this sexual harassment policy was adequate to prevent sexual harassment incidents when they prevailed?
The union made a serious allegation in its presentation that after the alleged sexual harassment, the victim was offered a director position. What had the Council done to investigate this matter? How far were those investigations? A timeframe must be provided about when these matters would be investigated or completed.
There seemed to be a misalignment between what the VC had said about student protests and what the SRC was saying. If the students were destroying the properties, they would have to be stopped, but if there was no destruction of property, students must be allowed to exercise their constitutional rights. Even during the “consultative processes” the institution conducted, it was just a ticking box exercise because the student body and other stakeholders were not listened to, nor were their disagreements considered by the institution's management. In most cases, one would find that the university management bullied students and workers. There was no standard procedure for dealing with counter offers in the institution. This may create a conducive environment for corruption. Only a few people at UP seemed to receive counter-offers from the institution when they wanted to leave for another job. There was also a sense of factionalism at the University.
He was pleased with the representation of the SRC.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) said the presentations were quite thorough and the presentation by the institution was close to perfect. However, where there were various stakeholders in an institution, there would always be diverse views on certain matters. The workers presented a report and, at the inception of its presentation, providing a review of the relationship they had with the leadership of the university. They also expressed gratitude for the assistance received from the University. After that, they presented difficult issues that may be difficult to articulate, which was appreciated. The leadership of the University must adopt a standardised approach to deal with labour-related matters on regulating remuneration and appointments. A standard approach was also missing in filling posts according to attrition. If these policies are inadequate, they must be reviewed to avoid a process that has become outdated. He encouraged the leadership to standardise these matters to avoid being accused of one or the other atrocities aired today in the Committee.
The problem around interfacing of stakeholders in the institution was problematic. The workers had said that they were viewed as an afterthought. This was unacceptable. It was important to have an open-door policy where the stakeholders were concerned. When the primary stakeholders say they would take the last resort (protests) and make it the first resort of engagement, this must be worrisome to the management. The students feel that the only way they are heard is by protests. This meant that there was a disconnect in the boardroom culture. Students should also not damage the institution's infrastructure, although it was an indictment on the leadership when these matters happened. There were many boardrooms in the entity where discussions could be held, and they must be used. Students could not get everything they wanted, but neither could the institution's management. They had to find each other and make concessions where they were possible to be made. In most cases, the leadership of institutions had accrued to themselves the façade of autocratic leadership – “it was my way or the highway”. He acknowledged that, at times, the latter stakeholders in institutions play on their strength in numbers to force things to happen, and play politics.
The Committee was often reminded of institutional autonomy when it asked uncomfortable questions to the management of institutions. After 28 years of democracy, one should not be discussing transformation based on slides. The attrition rate was slow, and they would like a breakdown of these numbers. This would inform the Committee of the demographics of the institution. It wanted to engage in detail and speak to the rate of attrition.
The elephant in the room was that the University would have had an alumni club that could have been donating to the institution. The total removal of their heritage from the institution's corridors may be why they were moving their money elsewhere. How then did the University plan to balance heritage and the imperative of transformation?
The transformation agenda did not speak about wiping out other races’ heritage.
Ms D Mahlatsi (ANC) asked that UP respond to all the matters that had been raised by the unions and the students. This may be done in writing. She also asked that the SRC resend a detailed presentation, instead of the point form presented in the meeting.
In UP's presentation, reference was made to the throughput and dropout rates -- why were there fewer dropouts in the three-year programmes, compared to the five and six-year ones? What were the correlation and underlying factors of high dropout rates amongst males, and was there any focused support to address the dropout situation? Why was the five-year programme the worst performing? The data could be compared with other institutions.
Regarding the funding and fee increases, the NSFAS disbursement had more than doubled from 2018 to 2021, resulting from the policy shift. The University had decided to increase fees -- was the increase for sustained cash flow, or did it have liquidity challenges? What was the composition of the share of the revenue by students who pay for their fees because this increase would negatively impact the missing-middle students?
Did the non-current assets of R14.3 billion as of 2021 reflect a level of financial sustainability by the institution, considering the high bad debt of R124 million? Why was a percentage of this bad debt not cleared for academically deserving students? There was so much money made on the reserves of the institution.
Issues of sexual harassment could not be overlooked, and they had to ensure that processes ran effectively to refrain from accusing people and leaving them with a bad record. She also asked about the employment equity plan and when it was last reviewed to ensure that it addressed the current realities.
Had UP been able to retain its academic staff? Workers had indicated issues with academic staff, particularly black academics. Were there any staff members who had left the institution for discriminatory reasons?
The SRC’s presentation and the institution’s presentation were vastly different. There was a disjuncture between what the surveys were saying. What were the conditions of private accommodation, given the exorbitant fees of the institution? This information could also be provided in writing. Were there students that had been kicked out of residence because of funding?
She asked for UP's anti-discriminatory policy and the student accommodation policy. On institutional culture, the survey said that curriculum transformation was valued, and lacked a shared view -- what did this mean? The curriculum was a big issue when it came to transformation. This matter had been touched on in the colloquium on institutional autonomy.
Issues of mental health were very serious. She had been at the University of Free State three weeks ago, and some students were going through difficult times. The Committee needed to know how the food supply for the needy students was managed, and how many students benefited from it. Equally, on mental health, were there psychologists on site at UP? At UFS, there were two psychologists for 6 000 students.
In response to Covid-19, how many students had been assisted with laptops and tablets? What criteria were used to allocate them, and had the students received them? Other institutions were still conducting teaching and learning in a hybrid model, and a few years down the line, the gadgets would become overused. Was there an intention to buy new ones when they became overused?
Regarding the institution's research capacity, the DHET provides resources to universities for research -- had UP been able to utilise this income for research? What had it been used for and how much was received? How many third streams of income did it have, and how much was in the reserves besides the R14 billion on the balance sheet?
She asked the institution to provide information on salary disparities and respond to all the issues outlined by the unions. However, she was more concerned about the skills opportunity element. The workers had indicated that employees were subjected only to programmes that were in line with their work through the employment development programme. This was not a proper way of doing things, because people in the past did any other job because there were no jobs, but it did not mean they must be limited to where they were. One sees in many institutions where people started as cleaners and became graduates with PhDs. She agreed with the sentiments of the workers on this matter, that one should not limit people in terms of what they should study further.
Regarding the production of PhDs, there was a general concern in different institutions about universities forcing lecturers to take a particular view regarding their postgraduate qualifications. They wanted to determine the topics for the PhDs, because the third-stream revenue element was interested in the outcome of that PhD. Was this the case at UP?
She said it did not make sense to insource people and outsource others on weekends. In financial terms, what was the difference? What was the intention of insourcing if there was going to be outsourcing of some of the services?
The transformation office was said to have been reduced to a racism and sexual harassment office. She asked for the terms of reference for this office and more details on funding, cases and resources.
Lastly, the University did not seem bad, but there was a need for improvement on certain issues. However, it had the potential to destroy everything that was sought to be achieved, especially when good governance was absent.
The Chairperson said that each stakeholder would receive five minutes to respond to any issue, and that they could not leave without responding to it because of time constraints. A lot of information had been requested by Members already. In planning the discussion, perhaps there could have been more detail on the data that Members wanted.
The Committee was not a space where colleagues cross-referenced one another. Stakeholders had to address the Members, not their colleagues. Members were genuinely concerned that there was a grave misunderstanding and misalignment between the institution and its stakeholders. Within the next two weeks, it would be important for the stakeholders to meet. The University could report back to the Committee on the progress. However, all the data requested by Members independent of that meeting must be submitted in writing.
The Committee needed further information on how the transformation office was managed; the breakdown of the SRC -- its leaders and composition; matters relating to compliance with the accommodation policy, and the SRC needed to be involved when the institution accredits establishments for student accommodation; inconsistencies regarding NSFAS – a report must be provided by NSFAS responding to all the issues outlined by the students and the institution; a sustainable funding plan for the sector; a security cluster stakeholders engagement, which must include the South African Police Service (SAPS) – the police should not come to the institution only when it is called for an emergency. There must be a coordinated security plan for Hatfield. A lot of learning took place in the Hatfield hub, and it must be secured and protected.
Issues concerning allegations of sexual harassment must be responded to in writing within a month, detailing the sexual harassment policy and other prevalent policies of the institution. The SRC and management must engage on fee increments, which create a barrier to access to education, to consider the nature of interventions put in place to ensure that increments do not have an impact and become a barrier to access to the University. Agreements reached with the stakeholders must see the light of day, to avoid an adverse impact on the academic programme.
The alumni of the institution were not going to look the same, because the more enrolment numbers increase in a particular trajectory, the alumni would also look different. This would be a true representation of the demographics of South Africa. One could not digress from the progress made on transformation and making higher education, not a privilege, but a right of every South African. The type of alumni they had now were the first graduates in their homes, but how do they begin to plough something back into the institution? They did not have a long-standing inheritance from their grandparents or great-grandparents who stole black people's land. However, just because they were black did not mean they could not plough something back. Ploughing back did not have to be monetary -- it could be about information sharing.
The Committee wanted to see proportional representation in all areas of the University. It had to exist in the executive management and Council, and in all its structures and its stakeholders, it must exist. It must be planned so that one could see the social cohesion that it wanted to achieve in the country.
Within seven days, all the information that could not be responded to in the meeting and required greater detail in writing must be submitted to the Committee. Within two weeks, the stakeholders must have all met and ironed out the issues that came out of the discussions. Within a month, the Committee would like a report from the Council on the issues of sexual harassment at the institution.
The union representative said that it relied on internal structures to do advocacy work. It would rely on mass meetings held on campuses to do advocacy work. Unfortunately, it was strained for capacity and time, but the different platforms in the institutions were utilised, like the bargaining forum, to formalise some of the advocacy programmes or processes. A submission would be made on the demographics, and the issue of retention of staff members would be provided to the Committee. The union wanted to work with all the members of the executive management to resolve all the issues that may cripple the University.
The representative said there was a thread running through the questions posed to the institution, the SRC and the unions. She requested to first sit and deliberate with the rest of her colleagues and respond in writing.
Students Representative Council
The Secretary-General said that all the data requested would be collected and submitted. Regarding the idea of entrepreneurship, the only issue was why it was an expectation that poor and middle-class students had to go above and beyond to access higher education. It was unfair to put that expectation on them just because they came from poor or middle-class backgrounds.
The SRC had quite a robust structure. There were faculty houses and each one represented its faculty students. All the issues that occurred at external campuses were initially raised to a faculty house, and if there was a need for the SRC to step in, it was then informed by the faculty house. Alternatively, students could contact the SRC directly.
As student leaders, they wanted to see a fair representation of students in every area that they existed in. They wanted to see a university that was truly representative of this country and the continent.
University of Pretoria
Prof Kupe said that of all the questions asked by the Members, the institution could respond to about 75% of them today, including the policies. He had a long presentation (70 slides), but it took a while for the team to understand that it had only an hour to make that presentation. If he had more time, more details in the presentation could have been divulged. He did not want to leave the meeting with the Committee believing that the University wanted to deprive the Committee of information. He had prepared to provide all the details. The University of Pretoria was a transforming university -- not yet a transformed university -- and it wanted to live up to the challenges of the country. It would have helped if, on 12 August, when they had been asked to diarise the meeting as a virtual meeting, they had been told everything that the Committee required from the institution. Only on 30 August had they been asked to prepare a PowerPoint presentation in a letter that was specific about what should be presented. It took a few more days to understand that the presentation had to be done in an hour, and then the meeting was changed a few times until it became a sit-down meeting. He assured the Members that all the required data and information was available, and where it did not meet the specific needs of the Committee, he would be honest about it and what the intention to rectify was.
He said the University was committed to working with all the stakeholders to take it forward. Amongst the stakeholders and the Committee, they had to deal with actual matters – matters that could be independently verified. Part of the problem in the sector was that there were now fact-less discussions, and then opinion became the reality. He appealed to the Members that they find mechanisms that verify facts independent of what the VC and the Chairperson of the Council had said. Many countries today are suffering because of situations where the leadership at all levels had disrespect for facts, science and knowledge, but were quick to reach conclusions that were not based on anything. This resulted in forms of institutional capture, state capture and chaos in society. He pleaded with the Members not to go in that direction. He would write to the Committee to advise how the facts would be independently verified. All details would be provided, along with documentation, meeting minutes, and the conclusions reached.
In the matter relating to him, he could not comment -- he would leave it to the investigation.
Mr Dlamini said all the issues raised were matters already being discussed in Council meetings. UP was a well-governed university that was run efficiently and effectively. Council ensured that it instilled an ethos of good governance through its committees. All governance-related questions would be responded to, as well as policies and codes of conduct. Policies were reviewed annually, and these policies covered a range of issues like bullying, sexual harassment, and others.
Processes were underway regarding some of the issues that had come to light. Once those processes were completed, the Council would revert to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that it was important that communication lines were strengthened to ensure that one did not have misperceptions, allegations flying around, or misrepresenting facts. The reason why detailed information had been requested was to avoid misrepresenting the issues outlined by stakeholders, and to find solutions or make recommendations to some of the challenges.
The education sector had a massive role in ensuring that citizens could be active participants in the economy, truly contribute to the liberation of the people, and resolve issues on equity and equality. The Committee saw universities as spaces where human beings could make meaningful contributions to their communities, and wanted to ensure that no one got left behind.
The meeting was adjourned.
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