Greetings to everyone

It is an honour and privilege to update you about Council's last meeting of the 2022 academic year. Once again, we had a successful Council meeting on the Mahikeng Campus where we used a hybrid model with the majority of members attending in person.

Since our last meeting, much has happened at the university. We have recorded several milestones and achievements, and we look forward to celebrating even more successes in various areas of the university. As Council, we are resolute in performing our governance role, and I am pleased that all stakeholders, including staff and students continue to rally around our shared vision and purpose. This unity of purpose is crucial in building and strengthening our university towards sustained success.

I take this opportunity to thank all our stakeholders for their support during the year. We value your inputs and contribution regarding the issues that affect our university.

As is the norm, many important issues that affect the strategic operations of the university were discussed during the meeting. High on our agenda was the transformation journey of the university, and I must emphasise that this is a journey, not an event. It is something that we must continuously work on and achieve; thus, I urge you to be part of this journey and ensure that the NWU remains one of the top universities internationally.

The issues that our ordinary meeting of Thursday, 17 November 2022, dealt with are outlined below. Please view my message here.

Management, under the leadership of the principal and vice-chancellor, presented a report to Council highlighting the activities and achievements since the last Council meeting.

The report focused on key issues including the following:
  • Student value proposition
  • Social responsiveness
  • Internationlisation
  • The strategic position that should be adopted related to rankings
  • Plans to address issues identified by members of Council during the meeting on 23 June; and
  • Future focus: 2023 and beyond
Council noted the good work and progress made and congratulated the vice-chancellor and management on the progress made in ensuring that the NWU remains among the best in South Africa and internationally. View the presentation here.

Council was informed that effective 17 November 2022, the principal and vice-chancellor has been appointed as adjunct professor in the Centre for Radiation Science and Technology in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, as co-proposed by the Faculty of Engineering in respect of Nuclear Science/Nuclear Engineering.

The faculty boards of these faculties made the appointment in accordance with the Framework for Extraordinary, Honorary and Adjunct Teaching-Learning and Research and Innovation appointments approved by Senate on 8 October 2022, in terms of which the Senex (in accordance with para 19(5) of the NWU Statute) was notified on 15 November 2022 of the appointment.

This appointment comes just a few weeks after the vice-chancellor was appointed adjunct professor by the College of Engineering at the North Carolina State University in the United States of America. We congratulate Prof Bismark on these appointments.

The following policies were approved, and will shortly be available here:
  • Code of Ethics
  • Performance Management Policy
  • Staff Learning and Development Policy
  • Environmental Sustainability Policy
  • Policy and Rules on Conflict of Interest and Declarations of Interest and Gifts
  • Financial Policy and Preferential Procurement Strategy
  • Occupational Health and Safety Policy
  • Brand Policy; and
  • Communication Policy
The Recruitment and Selection Policy was referred back to People and Culture and the Employment Equity Committee to address any concerns and expectations regarding the policy consultation process, especially during the final stages of the process.

Council approved the mid-year performance report which will now be submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), together with the financial performance for the six months ending 30 June 2022.

Council is satisfied with the manner in which the university management addressed the challenges posed by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and ensured that the NWU achieves its set goals and objectives. We look forward to more enhancements and innovations in both the academic and support environment, considering the lessons learned in the past three years.

Council approved the university's Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2023. The APP serves as an important input into the budget process and determination of strategic projects and will soon be made available on the staff intranet.

The approved plan will be submitted to the DHET.

Council approved the 2023-2025 budget, subject to the principle that the budget will need to be adjusted when new information is received from the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (specifically regarding the subsidy allocation and fee increase adjustment recommendation, as well as actual enrolments for 2023). Council further approved the proposed infrastructure projects and funds allocated for macro-maintenance, as well as the projected minimum fees payable by students.

Communication regarding the percentage increase for tuition and residence fees will follow as soon as the university receives recommendations from the Minister.

The mid-year financial statements ending on 30 June 2022, were also approved.

Based on the assumption by the NWU that the first payment by NSFAS will be made in April 2023, as well as that private accommodation owners will agree to the first payment to be made at the end of March, Council approved that the NWU advance the cash to pay out allowances to NSFAS students, in order to support the start of the 2023 academic year. This approach has been successfully implemented in recent years. The approval will only be implemented if the current way that NSFAS disburses funds is maintained.

Council has noted reports regarding the potential changes in the approach and will monitor developments and decide accordingly.

Council approved the 2023 Registration and Orientation (R&O) programme as recommended by the Student Life Oversight Committee.

The registration process for final accepted first-year students will commence on 23 January 2023 and will be solely online. First-year students are expected to arrive at the NWU campuses on 3 and 4 February 2023, after which the R&O programme will commence.
Council confirmed the approval by the Council Exco regarding the proposed changes to the Conditions of Employment and has granted a mandate for these changes to be consulted further with all the necessary stakeholders.

Further information regarding the process will be communicated in due course.

Council approved that building G17 on the Potchefstroom Campus be named the Esté Vorster Research Facility in honour of the late Prof Esté Vorster.

She was the leading figure in the growth and development of Nutrition research at the NWU since the late 70's. Prof Vorster was a pioneer who developed the discipline from the ground up to a Centre of Excellence.

She had an uncanny talent to plan and execute research projects that addressed the pressing nutritional problems the country faced while also creating enthusiasm in others to conduct research. More than that, she had the rare ability to conceptualise large transdisciplinary research programmes and many current staff have benefited greatly from her efforts to conceptualise and lead the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR) in 1998.

Council approved that the entity should retain its name and continue to operate but be moved to the level of a focus area. This should not be viewed as a downgrade but as a restructuring exercise that will enable the entity to perform better at that level and rebuild with less pressure.

The entity should also work towards attaining research unit status in the next five years.

Following the assessment of the research entity, Council approved that this research focus area continue to operate in its current status.

Council also accepted the recommendation that the entity develop a clear strategic plan based on their strengths, weaknesses and the threats and opportunities they face with actionable interventions that deal with concerns around low post graduate student numbers, relevance of the focus of the entity, and the equitable distribution of outputs by members.

The CPL is one of the three business units of the Centre for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Services. Currently CPL provides a therapeutic drug monitoring service of anti-epileptic medicines to medical practitioners, private laboratories, national state laboratories, hospitals and patients.

Demand for these services has however declined in the past few years due to in-house tests being conducted by other laboratories.
To assure the sustainability of CPL, it is necessary to expand the scope of service delivery. Currently the NWU has one of the largest pharmaceutical research and teaching programmes in Africa and is therefore well positioned to expand current capabilities and venture into new and innovative areas. Council approved the name change.

At its meeting of 9 June 2022, the Transformation Oversight Committee requested the Executive Directors of Student Life and People and Culture (with the assistance and support from the deputy registrar) to put together a plan for taking forward the transformation journey at the NWU.

This required the university to embark upon a structured transformation journey which would ensure an inclusive and holistic approach to understanding transformation at the institution.

The project was proposed, inter alia, with the understanding and acknowledgement that in some areas we were doing reasonably well in terms of transformation drives, while in other areas progress was very slow. Council approved the updated version of the transformation journey report which can be viewed here.

The process to follow in implementing the plan will be communicated once finalised and approved.

A Gender-Based Violence Policy Framework to address gender-based violence in the post-school education and training system was disseminated by the DHET and each institution must comply with the provisions as set out in the said policy framework.

The NWU has already implemented the NWU Gender-based Violence Policy as well as the NWU Gender-based Violence Standard Operating Procedure, which is applicable to all staff and students of the NWU.

In terms of the GBV Policy Framework, all staff and student leaders are expected to sign a GBV and Sexual Harassment Ethics Charter that will clearly specify ethical conduct that pertains to the eradication of sexual harassment and GBV. Council approved that the charter must be signed on an annually by all staff and student leaders, effective 1 January 2023.

Since the instruction of Council during its meeting in June 2021, an intensive process was followed by the NWU Public Artwork Selection Committee (PASC) comprising representatives from NWU Council, Senate, University Management Committee, and Student Representative Committee, to implement the Council resolution to ensure proper consultation with all NWU stakeholders, to find a unifying artwork.

The call for proposals opened on 15 September 2022 and closed on 15 October 2022.

The request for information was advertised in numerous media, including community newspapers. A special NWU PASC meeting was convened on 7 November 2022 to evaluate the proposals. A total of 22 proposals were received from members of the student community, staff, alumni, and other stakeholders. However, the number of proposals received was not encouraging; and the quality of proposals could have been better.

Council was satisfied with the process followed, but based on the facts presented, the matter was put on hold indefinitely, and focus will be placed on immediate priorities.

Council approved the employment equity annual submission report and the submission thereof to the Department of Employment and Labour.

The report provides an overview of the employment equity workforce profile of the university for the period 2021/2022 which is from 1 August 2021 to 30 September 2022.

The NWU has embraced King IV for its corporate governance management and approaches. Principle 16 of King IV states that, "In the execution of its governance role and responsibilities, the governing body should adopt a stakeholder- inclusive approach that balances the needs, interests and expectations of material stakeholders in the best interests of the organisation over time."

The NWU has also adopted the principles of the International Integrated Reporting Council in its reporting.

That is, the university's reporting focuses on the principles of Inclusivity, Materiality and Responsiveness. Although the university has a Stakeholder Relations portfolio that is located within Corporate Relations and Marketing Division, various structures of the university embark upon stakeholder engagement activities, which are not standardised and some of them are not even reported to the relevant structures.

Council approved the NWU Stakeholder Engagement Framework.

I once again want to thank all members of the university community for their diligence in ensuring that the NWU continues its trajectory to remain one of the top universities in the country. On 15 March 2023, Council will host its annual workshop where specific focus will be placed on identified strategic areas.

Please have a wonderful and blessed Festive Season.

Best wishes

Bert Sorgdrager
Chairperson: NWU Council

For more information please contact Amanda van der Merwe.
The next NWU Council meeting will be on 16 March 2023 on the Potchefstroom Campus.