you spoke and we listened


Last year we asked you in a survey about your perception of the state of ethics at the NWU, and you told us. Now we are going to use your feedback to compile an ethics strategy for the NWU.



Where it all started


During 2020, we asked The Ethics Institute, an independent body, to facilitate an ethics assessment at our university. After they had conducted focus group interviews, we invited all our staff to participate in the quantitative assessment by completing a survey.

Behaviour risks encountered more frequently by employees


Behaviour risks encountered rarely by employees



Most mature ethical culture areas (ethical opportunities)

Most fragile ethical culture areas (ethical challenges)

Ethical culture maturity overview


Integration: We therefore have a lot to do to build a mature ethical culture …

(Click on each circle to read more.)



Looking at the results


Now let’s get back to the results – here in short is what you told us:

For our ethical behaviour, we scored 94 out of a total of 100, which indicates a moderate risk.


When it comes to our ethical culture at the university, the results are less favourable – we only scored 38 out of 100, which indicates that our ethical culture is underdeveloped. (The only exception is our non-managerial employee commitment to ethics, which shows that our ethical culture in this regard is in a developing stage.)


But why is our culture score worse than our behaviour score? Well, it seems as if there is a gap between observing unethical acts on the one hand, and feelings about the university’s unspoken values on the other hand.


For starters, you indicated that you did not observe many acts of unethical conduct, which implies that rules and procedures tend to be followed.


At the same time, you do not feel that the unspoken values, assumptions and beliefs always support ethical behaviour at the university.


How the results were communicated


The University Management Committee and the Social and Ethics Committee of Council received feedback, and the outcome was also discussed at the Council workshop on 17 March 2021. This was followed by an online briefing session for staff and students on 20 May.


So, what happens next?


From the results it is clear that we have our job cut out for us: we have to pull up our sleeves and build a mature ethical culture.


The first step is to design an ethics strategy and management plan that will allow us to actively manage ethics and address concerns. The Social, Ethics and Risk Committee will oversee the implementation of this strategy.


Interventions will then be designed to improve our ethical culture. This will not only be a compliance exercise – we are serious about ethics and would like to take you all with us on this journey.

Are these findings really representative?


The findings are indeed representative, as 2 341 employees completed the survey.


This means that one out of every two colleagues completed the survey, which is an excellent response rate. In addition, there were also focus groups and interviews with student representatives, as well as management across all NWU campuses.


Thank you for making your voice heard!

Before looking at the results of the survey, let’s first refresh our memories about the survey you completed. It focused on two matters: ethical behaviour and an ethical culture at the NWU. Click on the buttons below to find out what the difference between ethical behaviour and ethical culture is:


    Ethical behaviour refers to the frequency with which employees observe unethical behaviour every day in our organisation. If the scores are higher, it means that staff members do not see a lot of unethical behaviour, whereas low scores indicate a greater frequency of unethical behaviour.


    Ethical culture refers to those elements in an organisation’s values, assumptions and beliefs that support or do not support ethical conduct. Higher scores indicate a maturing ethical culture whereas lower scores indicate a fragile or underdeveloped ethical culture.