Greetings to everyone

I am once again pleased to update you on Council's work during this unusual and unpredictable time.

The few issues that our ordinary meeting of Thursday, 10 September, dealt with are outlined below.

2020 second semester 24 August 2020 to 15 January 2021
2021 commencement of first semester classes Returning students: 15 February 2021
First-year students: 15 March 2021
2021 first semester assessment periods Mid semester: 14 to 23 April
End semester: (1st opportunity): 14 June to 8 July
(2nd opportunity): 15 to 28 July
2021 commencement of second semester classes All students: 29 July 2021
2021 second semester assessment periods Mid semester: 21 September to 1 October 2021
End semester: (1st opportunity): 15 November to 8 December 2021
(2nd opportunity): 13 to 23 December 2021
The following assumptions are the basis for the revisions made on the second semester calendar:
  • The continuation of the teaching-learning delivery in the contingency online mode; and paper-based material for identified students
  • The same number of teaching cycles as had been allocated in the first semester as relevant for the delivery of the contingency online mode; and
  • The continuation of the continuous assessment approach and the cancellation of the mid-semester, as well as end-semester assessment periods.
The following considerations informed the drafting of the 2021 academic calendar:
  • The first two weeks of 2021 would be utilised for the so-called summer school period
  • The effect of the delayed announcement of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results (normally the first week of January; now expected to be 23 February 2021)
  • A general understanding that a registration and orientation programme for first-year students is necessary, and that two weeks would be needed for the registration and orientation programme; and
  • The assumption that 2021 would be scheduled in a conventional fashion, i.e. allow for two semesters each with 12/13 teaching cycles, and mid-semester as well as end-semester assessment periods.
The university management presented an update regarding the university's performance in terms of the Annual Performance Plan. Council commended management on the progress made in spite of the current challenging circumstances.

In terms of the prescripts of the external audit tender process and subsequent appointment of PwC in 2018, the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee is required to consider the annual reappointment of the external auditor, for recommendation and approval by Council.

Council ratified the approval of the re-appointment of PWC for a subsequent year as external auditors of the NWU as approved by the ExCo of Council on 6 August 2020.

Sections 20 and 23 of the EE Act 55 of 1998 requires designated employers to prepare and implement a successive EE plan which is expected to achieve reasonable progress towards employment equity in the employer's workforce. The current EE plan expires on 31 December 2020. Therefore, there is a need for a successive EE plan for 2021-2023.

In terms of the EE Act, the NWU as a designated employer is required, in consultation with workforce representatives to;
  • Conduct an analysis of its workforce profile
  • Conduct an analysis of policies, procedures, practices and working environment in order to identify barriers for, inter alia, the advancement of persons from designated groups; and
  • Develop and implement an EE plan with the aim of achieving reasonable progress towards EE within the university's workforce.
We noted that the consultation process regarding the successive EE plan was conducted with the relevant stakeholders, and therefore approved the new plan.

The new plan will focus on the following four main strategies:
  • Barriers for attracting people from the designated groups including people living with disabilities
  • Succession planning for key positions
  • Retention strategies; and
  • Establishment of an enabling organisational culture
Management presented to Council an update on the financial impact of Covid-19 on the university's finances. The current climate is most likely to result in some financial losses. Therefore, different scenarios based on assumptions have been compiled in order to determine the possible negative financial impact. Council noted that various mitigation plans have been put in place to ensure financial sustainability. Council congratulated management regarding the approach it has adopted. We will, without doubt, continue to monitor the developments in this regard.

Council took note of the status report regarding progress made by the university at various levels of operation in countering the imminent threats posed by Covid-19. Council will continue to monitor the situation.

On an annual basis, Council conducts a self-review of its role as a governance structure of the university.

Following the Department of Higher Education and Training's (DHET) scorecard which indicated some shortcomings that Council discussed at its meeting of 26 September 2019, Council resolved in March 2020 to conduct an external review.

A panel consisting of four (4) persons with sound knowledge and experience on governance matters in the South African higher education sector conducted the review. The review process involved a range of methods including interviews and workshops with members of Council.

During our meeting on 10 September, the panel presented preliminary feedback which covered the following:
  • Strategic leadership, vision, mission, context and transformation, risk and compliance management and sustainability
  • The governance of the core functions of teaching-learning, research and innovation and community engagement; as well as student life matters
  • The governance of resources: financial, human, equipment and infrastructure, and business ethics
  • The governance of institutional accountability, including public reporting
  • Council and Council Committees' meetings, and conduct of business; and
  • Management of internal risks, quality assurance, administration and record keeping.
As soon as the final report is received from the review panel, Council will review the recommendations and implement accordingly.

Like many organisations and structures around the world, our university is doing its best to continue to function efficiently and effectively to deliver on its mandate. As Council, we will continue to monitor the university's operations closely and work with management to find solutions.

We are satisfied and encouraged with the work being done at the moment to anticipate and respond to the challenges. Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Council for the trust it has placed in me by re-appointing me to contribute as external specific expert for a further three-year term. It is indeed an honour and privilege to serve the NWU community together with a group of capable, dedicated and selfless persons with a shared objective of making our university one of the best in South Africa and globally. I wish to thank all our stakeholders for the constructive role they continue to play in ensuring the stability and sustainability of our university.

Once again I wish Prof Kgwadi, principal and vice-chancellor, as well as all members of the NWU community who are receiving treatment for Covid-19 and other diseases, a speedy recovery. Kind regards

Dr MB Tyobeka
Chairperson: NWU Council

For more information please contact Amanda van der Merwe.