Progress On The Implementation Of Wits’ Transformation Plan

MESSAGE FROM THE DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR: ADVANCEMENT, HR AND TRANSFORMATION

PROGRESS ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF WITS’ TRANSFORMATION PLAN

Dear Colleagues

As promised, I would like to keep you updated on the implementation of the University’s transformation plan that has been approved by Senate and Council. The plan identified eight programmes which we have actively been working on to ensure that implementation happens as quickly as possible.

1.      Diversifying the Academy

We have dedicated R45 million to this project of which R35 million was allocated to attract new South African Coloured and African scholars and R10 million was set aside as enabling grants for scholars in the same demographic group who are already part of the Wits academy. These grants will enable these colleagues to work towards achieving the required criteria for promotion to the Associate Professor and full Professor ranks.

We advertised the new positions for African and Coloured Senior Lecturers and Lecturers and we are currently assessing over 100 applications. This process will then be handed over to Schools and Faculties who will undertake interviews with the potential candidates and manage the process from there.

Deans and Heads of Schools are identifying eligible individuals for the enabling grants and we are also currently assessing these applications.

At the same time, we are continuing our external fundraising efforts to ensure that these programmes can be extended to more people.

2.      Curriculum Reform

Two major processes are underway in this regard.

The first relates to the conditions of the Higher Education Quality Committee which requires all universities to reform their programmes in line with the Committee’s recommendations. Wits has made significant progress in the first phase of the alignment to the new framework. The University is now in a good position to make use of this opportunity to address the content of our programmes and to make our curricula more relevant, while remaining internationally competitive.

Secondly, all disciplines, schools and faculties are required to hold meetings with staff and students to assess and address the substantive content of all curricula to ensure that our academic programmes are transformative, innovative, relevant and appropriate, and that they speak to our national and continental issues and priorities. This process is being managed by our Heads of Schools and Deans and should be concluded within the next six months. The process is being monitored on a monthly basis by the Transformation Implementation Committee.

3.      Promoting a Diverse and Cosmopolitan Resident Life Experience

A task team comprising of academics and student representatives was established six months ago to look into the promotion of diversity in residences by exploring the existing criteria for admission into residences. It will shortly make recommendations in this regard. At the same time an inquiry is underway to establish and explore the experiences of current students in residences. This inquiry is being jointly managed by the Transformation Office, the Student Affairs Division and the Gender Equity Office. The outcome of the inquiry and its recommendations will be made available to the University community.

4.      Institutional Culture

A number of strategies have been established under the new leadership in the Transformation Office. This includes designing and administering an appropriate institutional culture survey, hosting focus group discussions across the University and consulting broadly with all stakeholders. These projects are still being developed and will be shared with the University in the forthcoming weeks.

5.      Institutional Naming

The Institutional Naming Committee is being expanded to include all stakeholders in the University including students. At the same time, the University’s Naming Policy has been revised and has been approved by Senate. It will serve before Council in October. The University has also appointed an individual to undertake research on all Wits’ buildings and spaces and their history. The Naming Committee will meet again in October to study the research and to make proposals on how the naming of places and spaces at Wits should be undertaken.

6.      Language Policy

Following consultation with many stakeholder groups and a Town Hall meeting, the Language Policy has been discussed in detail and has been circulated throughout the University. It has been open for comment for months and is informed by intense research. It has been approved by various Senate sub-committees and it will now serve before Senate and Council. Once approved, the executive management will develop a plan to resource its implementation.

7.      Insourcing and Outsourcing

The University has put in place penalties for service providers who violate workers’ rights. At the same time, there is an initiative led by Wits academics to assist workers of Wits’ service providers to establish co-operatives to compete for contracts and tenders for some of the University’s outsourced services. We will also approach other universities and civil society organisations to lobby government to substantially increase our subsidies so that we can afford to insource activities where appropriate.

8.      Student Admissions

Despite Wits’ student population comprising of 75% Black students and a 51:49 female/male split, the University is working towards ensuring that diversification occurs at the programme level across the University. The MBBCh is a case in point where the admissions process was reviewed last year in collaboration with students with a view towards diversifying the MBBCh cohort. The new admissions criteria were implemented this year.

Conclusion

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib is also working with the higher education sector, the Department of Higher Education and Training and the banking sector to address the issue of student finance – one of the biggest challenges faced by students in South Africa. He is also working with stakeholders to identify and address the weaknesses of the NSFAS system. We will keep you updated on progress in this regard.

Should you have any questions on our transformation initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at Tawana.Kupe@wits.ac.za.

Regards

Professor Tawana Kupe
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Advancement, HR and Transformation
1 October 2015

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